Photo: Edward Cooke / Black Arts PR

Kaiser Chiefs Offer Great Fun on ‘Duck’

Kaiser Chiefs' Duck is full of energy and joy, and returns the band to their more rockish sound.

Kaiser Chiefs
26 July 2019

The seventh album by Kaiser Chiefs is one of summer 2019’s funnest records. Duck additionally slots right into the Kaiser Chiefs discography by effectively merging debut Employment (2005) and their strong return Education, Education, Education & War (2014). On Duck, Kaiser Chiefs stick to what works, in a way that isn’t a detraction and succeeds nicely with musical joy and lyrical relevance. Duck expounds an attitude that revels in what makes you happy (almost rebellious in its own fashion). It’s a feat capable only because Kaiser Chiefs sound like they had an absolute blast making this record.

Kaiser Chiefs’ promotion for Duck has ranged from releasing two singles, “Record Collection” and “People Know How to Love One Another” to rating their own albums and recording a set of live videos for Vevo. Listening to the five-piece talk about their albums and play the new tracks illustrates how well Duck succeeds. It’s an album that isn’t experimental and doesn’t expect more for itself than what it can deliver. And that’s great. You can just listen to it, enjoy it, and be happy. Those aspects also reveal the band’s honesty given their exposure and place in current British culture, principally with frontman Ricky Wilson’s role on The Voice UK.

That TV element of pop factored into Stay Together (2016), an album the band have admitted was experimental because they tried to be pop, instead of their brand of indie rock. A mature indie rock possibly. Where Stay Together faltered, Duck succeeds by integrating the band’s indie rock and pop sensibilities seamlessly. It’s also not as political as Education, Education, Education & War, even while lyrics poke through and reference the success of that 2014 album. Both leading singles reference problematic aspects of modern society, such as basic humanity in the face of catastrophe and the impact of social media.

Duck leads off with “People Know How to Love One Another”, a track identified by the band as the “antithesis” to “Everyday I Love You Less and Less”, the opener for Employment. That detail perfectly sums up and engages the similarities between the band’s debut and Duck as album number seven. The band additionally linked the message to Brexit, an ongoing dilemma tinged with human disconnection countered by a song seeping English indie rock and “human warmth” according to Kaiser Chiefs. The fast-paced album moves quickly into second track “Golden Oldies”, a song drenched in holiday style warmth, but made more fun through its capability to recollect family and togetherness through intimacy and personal decisions. It’s got a great guitar riff throughout, too.

The first half of the album merges the nights out of Kaiser Chiefs in 2005 with the awareness of 15 years later. “Wait”, “Target Market”, and “Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something” follow on the first half and point out youthfulness and risk confronted by maturity and responsibility. And that seems heavy, but the tracks are anything but that. They speak to our cultural sensibilities in 2019 and reactions ranging from impatience to insecurity, all within a capacity to endear a 20-25-year-old fan as much as a 35-40-year-old counterpart. My favorite part of the album is included in “Wait”: an element in the mix that sounds like both a siren and an environmental synthesis. The track is the best on Duck and worth listening to just to find that sound.

The second half of the album begins with the album’s first single, “Record Collection”, an uptempo warning against social media and technological additions that otherwise distract us from our human connections. Duck features a strong set of songs in the second half that offer interesting references to Kaiser Chiefs’ influences and predecessors, from Oasis to Nirvana and Frasier Crane (yes, that Frasier).

“Record Collection” only starts the second half, with “The Only Ones” serving as a far more stylistic track to define the composition and arrangements for Duck in this half. The song speaks to self identity and notability while looking at yourself from the outside with another viewer, and lyrically equating “living forever” with “living at all”. Following track “Lucky Shirt” slows down the tempo, reflecting upon insecurity beyond the familiar and the comfortable in oneself. Altogether these tracks reference a nostalgia in one’s life, that the events of the past seem more memorable than the daily trivialities and experiences we overlook and dismiss. Meanwhile, the album points out larger aspects of nostalgia within the concluding three tracks.

It’s hard not to hear the Oasis reference to “She’s Electric” from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? on “Electric Heart” when the phrase is a prominent chorus. The use is different and only a lyrical reference, harkening back to modern trappings that otherwise distract us from our connections. Naturally, the closing track “Kurt vs. Frasier (the Battle for Seattle)” is obvious in its nod and nostalgia for 1990s-era grunge rock and TV sitcoms. These reference leave Duck as an album seeping in nostalgia, but equally familiar with our modern societal reliance on that very reality: we stream EVERYTHING and repeatedly! Set between “Electric Heart” and the closing track is “Northern Holiday”, on par with “Wait” as the overlooked and best song on Duck. The song features amazing musical arrangements and sets itself up as the reflective revelation on the album: referencing both a life led on TV and a life led missing home and the simplicities otherwise overlooked.

To define Duck as hinged upon nostalgia is to limit its relevance in our popular culture of 2019. Certainly, the style and lyrical cues on Duck are symptomatic of nostalgia for indie rock and Britpop memories that Kaiser Chiefs represent, but how wrong is that? Does it experiment? No. Does it excite and succeed? Yes. Duck is an album by a mature band aware of what they and their fans want.

RATING 7 / 10
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