Sound — 7
Kaiser Chiefs formed in 2000 under a different name, but after being dropped by their label in 2003 the band changed their name to Kaiser Chiefs and began writing all new material. They've repeatedly stated their influences are early punk rock and new wave music, which is something evident in their sound playing modern new wave with more of a punk rock approach to songwriting. They gained a following during tours in 2004 and in 2005 released their debut album with their current name, "Employment." They've continued to have success and release albums, with "Education, Education, Education & War" being their fifth full length studio album. The album has ten tracks and clocks in at approximately forty-six minutes. They've released one single from the album; "Coming Home," which was released in mid-February. Although "Coming Home" was the first and only official single from the album, the tracks "Misery Company" and "Bows & Arrows" were made available previously through the band's SoundCloud account and Rolling Stones website, respectively. Founding drummer, Nick Hodgson, left the band in 2012 to "pursue other projects," so this will be the first album with their new drummer, Vijay Mistry.
The album opens with the track "The Factory Gates," which uses some interesting noise in the intro, such as wind blowing and seagulls, before the instrumentation comes in, which definitely has one of the strongest new wave feels of any of the songs on the album. Peanut provides a keyboard line on this song that you would almost expect to hear watching "The Addams Family" or "The Munsters" on old school "Nick at Nite." Next up is the single, "Coming Home," which has a very nostalgic bent to it and feels a little overly sing-songy to me. "Misery Company" starts out with some cool riffing on the guitar and a cool little keyboard line. This one sounds like it is going to be fun to play along with on pretty much whatever instrument you play and it may be one of my favorite songs on the album for its energy alone. "Ruffians on Parade" sounds almost like what you would expect as a modern offering from The Cure, though Ricky's vocals aren't that similar to Robert Smith. "Meanwhile Up in Heaven" is another throwback track, sounding exactly like what it is - modern "indie" rock heavily influenced by '80s new wave music - but pulled off beautifully. "One More Last Song" has a little bit more fire in it than a lot of the earlier tracks, with a driving drum part and some of the more interesting vocals from the album. "My Life" has one of the more fun bass lines from the album, and a weird vibe to it that feels really familiar, but I can't really place it. This is definitely on my list of favorite songs from the album. "Bows and Arrows" has an electronic sounding percussion part, but some interesting vocals going on. "Cannons" has a pretty heavy sounding intro, but it quickly sounds like some very "poppy" new wave, and also the song where the title from the album was pulled from the lyrics. The album closes out with the track "Roses," which has a melancholy vibe to it, but makes a good track to close the album out on.
Lyrics — 7
Ricky Wilson has performed vocals since the band originally formed under the name Parva in 2000, and basically does a passable job at what he does. He is provided support in the form of backing vocals from guitarist, "Whitey" White, and bass guitarist, Simon Rix. Ricky's vocals are definitely sufficient, and at times they rise above that and are something a little bit better, but honestly except for the few high vocal points on the album I don't find myself overly impressed with his vocals on the album. The lyrics catch me on both sides of the extremes - I either loved or hated the lyrics on any given song. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the song "Bows and Arrows," which is supposed to be how when the right people get together they're more than their individual parts: "Hold onto your hearts, if you can/ It's been the coldest year since records began/ And now the sun is coming up again in no man's land/ So let's go, into tomorrow/ Together fighting/ We're bows and arrows/ You and me on the front line/ You and me, every time/ It's always you and me, we're bows and arrows/ You! / Well I'm not waiting for no one, I'm waiting for you/ Well I'm not waiting for no one, I'm waiting for you/ It takes the two of us to gather up, we'll make it through." At the end of the day the lyrics are interesting, though they are fairly straight forward and don't get very abstract or surreal, and read more straightforward.
Overall Impression — 7
Kaiser Chiefs definitely have an interesting thing going on with their modern spin on new wave music, which somehow makes the genre feel new. While their earlier albums possibly had a little bit more of the punk rock kick to it that the band claims as an influence, "Education, Education, Education & War" still has a lot to offer. My favorite tracks from the album are "Misery Company," "Meanwhile Up in Heaven," and "My Life." I also was on the edge of adding "Cannons" to that list. I would definitely recommend the album to existing Kaiser Chiefs fans, or even fans of new wave music in general. For everyone else, it is a decent album but it isn't the end of the world if you miss this one, though it does have a few strong moments.