Kaiser Chiefs: The Future Is Medieval

From predicting riots to predicting new album models... For a band once built around spry choruses and chugging guitars, this is a costly error indeed.

Kaiser Chiefs

The Future Is Medieval

Label: Fiction
US Release Date: 2011-07-05
UK Release Date: 2011-06-27
Online Release Date: 2011-06-03

The Kaiser Chiefs hold an awkward place in the 2005 class of British post-punk revivalists. They never had a problem matching the kinetic energy of Maximo Park or the Futureheads, but Ricky Wilson and company seemed to lack the endearing underdog quality their peers flaunted so effortlessly. In fact, the Kaiser Chiefs were an odd placement into the post-punk class in the first place. The '90s Britpop of Supergrass and Blur held just as much influence over their successful debut, 2005’s Employment, and when their sophomore effort came out two years later, the band was admittedly drawing from American classic rock of the 1970s.

For a band whose appeal was built on breakneck choruses and unbridled ebullience, The Future Is Medieval strides more than a few paces from the Chiefs’ traditional comfort zone. Per usual, their single choice, almost-raucous opener “Little Shocks” isn’t too distant a cousin of “Ruby” or “I Predict a Riot”, though the record as a whole is something of a departure. Once content to barricade songs around walls of guitar and piano key pounding, tracks like “Things Change” and “Starts With Nothing” do quite a bit of beating around the bush, which was never part of this quintet’s primary skill set. This, in addition to number of downright boring songs (“Child of the Jago”, “Out of Focus”) renders Medieval a downright lethargic listen at 13 songs. For a band once built around spry choruses and chugging guitars, this is a costly error indeed.

Much like the recent effort from countrymen the Arctic Monkeys, Medieval’s muses come from rock ‘n' roll lore, especially late '60s Beatles. Wilson has taken a fancy for John Lennon in particular, with the wistful falsetto of “When All Is Quiet” as evidence. The even more subdued closer “If You Will Have Me” pines for the emotion of “Imagine” and “Man on Mars” embraces the Sgt. Pepper’s aesthetic with a little David Bowie oddballism tossed into the mix. Problem is, the Kaiser Chiefs are still far more dexterous within familiar territory despite their obvious ambitions. Despite being miles from the appeal of past rabble rousers like “Oh My God” and “Angry Mob”, the cranked up rawk of “Little Shocks” and “ Long Way From Celebrating” finds the Chiefs at their cantankerous best, or at least in 2011.

Despite all the homage to Brit rock’s past, the Kaiser Chiefs apparently still realize they are a band toughing it out in an ever-changing, modern day marketplace. Accordingly, The Future Is Medieval comes with a hokey promotion gimmick of Radiohead-esque aspirations. Released online almost a month in advance of its physical counterpart, speculative fans were given the opportunity to hand-pick their own ten-song album out of a 20-song pool of tracks from the Medieval sessions, along with customizable artwork. And to escalate matters to another level internet-music capitalism entirely, buyers were able to earn one British pound each time their version was purchased by another fan.

Regardless of who’s profiting off these songs, this doesn’t transform the lot into winners. The Kaiser Chiefs have had better ideas before, and the average NME-reading enthusiast of neo-Britpop would have been far better suited to have chosen ten favorite songs from Employment, or while we’re at it, What’s the Story Morning Glory, Parklife, or The Stone Roses. These lads from Leeds clearly realize their business model needs tweaking, though it’s their songbook that benefit most from an about-face.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less

Following his excellent debut record Communion, Rabit further explores the most devastating aspects of its sound in his sophomore opus Les Fleurs du Mal.

Back in 2015 Rabit was unleashing Communion in the experimental electronic scene. Combining extreme avant-garde motifs with an industrial perspective on top of the grime sharpness, Eric C. Burton released one of the most interesting records of that year. Blurring lines between genres, displaying an aptitude for taking things to the edge and the fact that Burton was not afraid to embrace the chaos of his music made Communion such an enticing listen, and in turn set Rabit to be a "not to be missed" artist.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.