Sound — 4
"Things Change" is the name of the second track on this album, as well a truth that rings throughout it. In some ways, this truth is to Kaiser Chiefs' credit; unlike so many other Indie bands, their sound does keep developing. Unfortunately, as is often with the case with other such bands, the evolution of their sound is flawed more often than not. "Things Change" itself sounds like a drunk professor stumbling about in his laboratory, with numerous electronic effects and limited guitar work present. "Heard It Break" is equally afflicted with overuse of keys and processed beats, as opposed to the guitar-driven anthems of previous years. To this effect, "Coming Up For Air" in particular seems to try so hard to avoid hitting a hook it becomes plain-old boring. Nevertheless, "Starts With Nothing", "Child Of The Jago" and lead single "Little Shocks", though repetitive, have a direction, even if they do sometimes take a while to get there, whilst "Kinda Girl You Are" is pretty much the only thing here which could be considered catchy. As frequently threatened on "Off With Their Heads", there is a strong Beatles influence in places, none more so than in the early-60s-sound of "When All Is Quiet", a song which worryingly features very little attitude and even less substance. As well as this, there's "Man On Mars" which in both title and sound is an obvious nod to David Bowie. Despite this, "Dead Or In Serious Trouble", "Long Way From Celebrating" and the aforementioned "Kinda Girl You Are" do hark back to the tones of "Your Truly, Angry Mob". The album ends with an acoustic number, "If You Will Have Me", which is one of the more impressive experiments here with simple chords and swooping strings. Overall though, Kaiser Chiefs are beginning to sound like a band they're not. They are best at writing pint-hoisting, stadium filling indie anthems, and there is not a single one here. They remain an excellent live band, as evidenced by recent festival performances, but "The Future Is Medieval" will certainly not be a heavy contributor to future setlists.
Lyrics — 6
Kaiser Chiefs could be described lyrically as Marmite, they are either despised or loved. Strangely though, on "The Future Is Medieval" there is a mix of the loveable and the questionable. Lines such as "It feels like I broke my heart again but it's just a sprain" are always going to divide audiences; there is a certain wit to it but it seems a bit cliche. On the other hand, "You were looking cold, in just an artfully positioned piece of mistletoe" are cheeky, enjoyable and more what fans will have come to expect from chief songwriter and drummer, Nick Hodgson. Hodgson's vocals are more frequent hear than ever before; he gets the album closer all to himself in a sweet ode to (presumably) his father and provides lead vocals and solid backing on numerous other occasions. This does make a nice change in some places, particularly on "If You Will Have Me", but it remains the bombastic frontman Ricky Wilson who really lends life to often lacking lyrics.
Overall Impression — 5
At times, this feels like the album promised by "Off With Their Heads", a little too light and poppy, rather than reverting back to the driving and often melancholy sound of the classic "Employment". Far be it from me to criticise a band for trying to branch out a bit, but Kaiser Chiefs are a band who perhaps should have stuck to what they knew a few years ago. It sometimes feels like a band of not-so-arty people attempting to make arty music. Having said that, Kaiser Chiefs do stand out as above-average musicians in a genre dominated by mediocrity, and that just about carries the band through some more sludgy patches of songwriting. This is not an awful album by any means, but it certainly could be the predecessor to one. Then again, the same was said of "Off With Their Heads", but this is a band that needs to make another solid album, and soon, or they risk falling into obscurity.