England’s Kaiser Chiefs while in the midst of an extended hiatus started their own label, Chewing Gum Records. Perhaps this step into the business side of music elicited the band to release their newest album The Future is Medieval in a rather peculiar format. The album was release online through their website which is of course nothing new since In Rainbows. What was unique about the release was that it consisted of 20 songs, allowing fans to create their own album out of their favourite 10, rather than a playlist selected by the band. Further to that, some early compilations were available for others to download with the original mixer receiving a £1 royalty for their creativity. Some including frontman Ricky Wilson, The Guardian, and a Radio One DJ donated the proceeds from their playlists to charity. Eventually an official 13 song tracklist was released by the band (and serves as the basis for this review).
The album is reminiscent of earlier Kaiser Chiefs but there is definitely some evolution going on here. Gone are the radio friendly hooks and football anthems which typified their first three major releases. Enter the meandering pace of the lead single “Little Shocks” and the instrument by instrument ascent of “Starts with Nothing” that had me thinking of LCD Soundsystem. The final track, “If You Will Have Me” is a complete departure featuring Ricky Wilson and his guitar with a heartfelt lament of lost parents. However, the eclectic medley of sounds and lyrical content they try to jam all together at once just lacks continuity and direction.
The format is certainly fresh and some of the material of the album certainly is too. What is lacking is the synergy that people expect when listening to an album. Perhaps this is just an old-fashioned notion and perhaps The Future is Medieval is a glimpse into the future of how music is released. But while giving the fans an opportunity to build the album they want is a fun idea, it takes away from the clarity of the band`s message. Art that isn’t driven by the vision of the creator starts to seem less like art. I don’t think da Vinci handed out pieces of the Mona Lisa and told his patrons to arrange it however they liked. He had a plan for what his work would ultimately look like. It seems as though the Kaiser Chiefs didn’t.
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