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Kaiser Chiefs - Duck (Album Review)

Tuesday, 06 August 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

‘Duck’ is Kaiser Chiefs’ seventh studio album and finds the Leeds quintet reunited with the Grammy-winning producer Ben H. Allen, who previously worked on the band’s ‘Education, Education, Education & War’ in 2014. 

It finds the group in familiarly playful spirits, offering a blend of satirical storytelling, shoutalong choruses and taut, nimble melody writing. It’s a return to their original sound after 2014’s ‘Stay Together’ dragged them slightly unconvincingly into electro-pop. This album hits its marks admirably.

Standout tracks include lead single Record Collector; a handsome, swaggering toe tapper that references ‘80s electro while keeping things light and joyous, and album closer Kurt vs. Frasier (The Battle for Seattle). 

The title here refers to famous denizens of the American city, Kurt Cobain and (fictional radio therapist) Frasier Crane. The song itself is an escapist fantasy ballad that uses the convenient assonance of the names as a lyrical motif instead of a jumping off point for a more conceptual song. 

Though the latter choice may have proven a more interesting musical exercise, the song remains elegant and the lyrics are gorgeously understated: “What do you think of hitting the road? / Leave it behind, lighten the load /Full of mistakes make a new start / Pull up a crate and empty your heart.”

As a singer, Ricky Wilson is quite a distinctive talent. His strongest performances come when he is making elevated-yet-vernacular comments on the state of the nation, as with opener People Know How To Love One Another—surely a comment on Brexit division. But this tone of voice can misfire and sometimes feels smug, as on Target Market. Even worse, it can come across as disingenuous when he is attempting more profound messaging on tracks like The Only Ones. 

Interestingly, his pop persona probably borrows from Robbie Williams more than people like to admit, and it’s a noteworthy comparison when we consider that Williams can pull off a ballad far more convincingly. That said, the songwriting is generally excellent on ‘Duck’. Golden Oldies—which emerges from the back end of the aforementioned opener —is one track that handles the tonal balance with distinction. 

It’s a wistful, nostalgic tune and a total ear-worm that borrows from glam-rock in its chugging, retro groove. More generally, this is an album that will reassure longtime fans and might even get the band some new ones. The riot that Wilson predicted in 2005 may not have arrived yet, but this should keep them safely in employment.

Kaiser Chiefs Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri August 16 2019 - MONTROSE East Links
Sat August 17 2019 - INVERNESS Northern Meeting Park
Sun August 18 2019 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Fri January 17 2020 - NOTTINGHAM Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
Sat January 18 2020 - BRIDLINGTON SPa
Mon January 20 2020 - HULL Bonus Arena, Hull
Tue January 21 2020 - HULL Bonus Arena, Hull
Wed January 22 2020 - EDINBURGH Usher Hall
Fri January 24 2020 - BLACKPOOL Empress Ballroom
Sat January 25 2020 - BIRMINGHAM Arena Birmingham
Mon January 27 2020 - PLYMOUTH Pavilions
Tue January 28 2020 - BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Thu January 30 2020 - BRIGHTON Centre
Fri January 31 2020 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Sat February 01 2020 - LONDON O2

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