Sound — 6
After working with Lily Allen to record a cover of Oh My God (a track from the Kaiser Chiefs first album Employment) Mark Ronson was enlisted to produce the latest Kaiser Chiefs album Off With Their Heads. Apart from some instrumentation on Like It Too Much and Lily Allen's barely audible backing vocals on Always Happens Like That, Ronson's focus seems to be to preserve the band's sound and maintain a focus on Wilson's lyrics. Nowhere is this more obvious than on first single Never Miss A Beat where Wilson's lyrics rally against anti-intellectualism, heard in the refrain, It's cool to know nothing above which the guitars screech and chime. But apart from a few highlights including anthem Like It Too Much and cheeky Addicted To Drugs this album is nothing new. There are some inspired moments of song writing, where Wilson's lyrics and the band's creative energy combine, and the band's infectious energy is impossible to resist. However these moments are too few and far between, and are more often than not, offset by some uninspired moments. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in Half The Truth which features an inspired refrain and a catchy synth-hook, but is then hijacked for a spoken-word verse by Sway DaSofo. This song exemplifies all that is good and bad about this album. Yes there are times when this album impresses, but there are equally times when it is disappointing.
Lyrics — 6
Wilson's lyrics, as always, deal with various ideas. Generally one would say the lyrics sit in the "social commentary" box. Lead single "Never Miss A Beat" rails against anti-intellectualism and "Addicted To Drugs" is a cheeky shot at celebrity-status. Unfortunately there are times when the lyrics fall embarrassingly short, such as the confusing "Tomato In The Rain", the lukewarm "Good Days Bad Days" and the positively basic "Remember You're A Girl". Every now and then, Wilson shows streaks of brilliance; and this is generally present on the album. However, one can't help but feel cheated; especially when he is able to produce such fantastic lyrics, and then lyrics that are average at best.
Overall Impression — 7
Mark Ronson's influence seems to have been periphery at best. Enlisting Lilly Allen to sing backing vocals and Bond composer David Arnold to arrange strings are hardly inspired moves. One wonders whether perhaps a producer needs to temper the band's energy and spirit to create a more focussed and consistent record; but perhaps to do this, risks the high-octane sound that the Kaiser Chiefs are renowned for. It seems that no one least of all themselves have sorted out the formula for the Kaiser Chiefs. When someone finally does, please tell me, because this band may be unstoppable. Key Tracks: Never Miss A Beat, Like It Too Much, Addicted To Drugs