With the release of 2005’s ‘Employment‘, northern quintet Kaiser Chiefs burst into the mainstream with their catchy songwriting, forming part of a movement which saw several indie bands shift straight to arena status. After two more albums confirmed their place as one of Britain’s most recognised bands, they went on hiatus after a homecoming sub-headline slot at 2009’s Leeds Festival. Ricky Wilson (frontman) revealed the reason behind this break was because they “needed to get bored”. After they became “mind-numbingly bored”, Wilson explained that they were ready to “get up and do something again”, admitting that he hadn’t “felt this creative since they first started”.
This band have never been renowned for a sense of innovation. However, for this fourth effort, Kaiser Chiefs might well have uncovered a potential future in music distribution, releasing the album in a revolutionary manner. They decided to put the listeners in total control when they released all twenty tracks from ‘The Future Is Medieval‘ sessions onto their official website. They granted fans the opportunity to compile their own unique version of the LP by selecting their favourite ten tracks from the twenty available, and then completing the album by customising their own artwork. After paying £7.50 to download the tracks in the first place, fans could then share their creation online and earn £1 every time someone purchased their version. This is undoubtedly a risky but nevertheless imaginative leap forward in releasing music, something very unexpected from this band. There are similarities with Radiohead in terms of unconventionality, however, both ‘In Rainbows’ and ‘The King Of Limbs’ had already been meticulously compressed and sequenced by the band before the online release. This format prompts questions as to whether ‘The Future Is Medieval’ is actually an album, as it seems to appear as a bulky mixtape. Listeners might wonder that the Kaiser Chiefs had not finished the final stage of album production because whittling down the album was too much of a challenge and the DIY-type of release was simply a way of concealing this. However, these are all conspiracies as it is down to whether this quantity release has quality throughout. The band have now released it in the orthodox album format, with thirteen tracks making their final cut.
Album opener ‘Little Shocks‘ indicates straightaway that the band have changed their style, with the song focussing on rough guitars and keyboards. ‘Things Change‘ is a lighter track which continues with the synth and keyboard mix. ‘Long Way From Celebrating‘ is a guitar-driven number which features a catchy chorus, bringing back flashes of the band’s past sound. ‘Start With Nothing‘ introduces a sound reminiscent of White Lies, with its gloomy synth and eerie guitars. ‘Out Of Focus‘ is another slow-burning song with yet more high-pitched synth sounds. ‘Dead Or In Serious Trouble’ begins vibrantly with crashing drums and energetic guitars, standing out to the listener. ‘When All Is Quiet‘ revolves around a piano riff interweaved by chords and high-octane vocals. Britpop style vocals feature in the guitar-based ‘Kinda Girl You Are‘. ‘Man On Mars‘ starts off with a basic drum pattern before the other instruments build in. The low-pitched guitar at the start of ‘Child Of A Jago‘ is reminiscent of a slow version of ‘I Predict A Riot’. More retro-style synth sounds are existent in ‘Heard It Break‘, another slowly paced track. ‘Coming Up For Air’ is another subdued song as the album enters its final phase. Album closer ‘If You Will Have Me‘ provides a fitting end with its acoustic guitar, powerful strings and raw vocals.
‘The Future Is Medieval’ is the sound of the Kaiser Chiefs losing their creative flair which prompts conclusions that they have already passed their best and this will never be recovered. It is evident that the band is desperately trying to reinvent themselves and failing to the point where they lose their identity. The product has disjointed rhythms which severely disrupt the album’s flow, making it a difficult listen. The overwhelming number of intensely weak songs shroud out the flashes of merit, making it a virtually inaccessible and repetitive album. This confused sound will undoubtedly isolate parts of their fanbase. Nevertheless, they deserve credit for a valiant move, however, it seems to have worked against them and I feel they should remain with the signature sound which has proven effective in the past. Although this album might be forgotten musically, it will be remembered for its initial release format.