If a haunted house with some serious political grievances put on a 46-minute rock show, you might get something resembling Kaiser Chief’s latest release, Education, Education, Education & War.
The record is just as bizarre as this description suggests—it’s at once upbeat and threatening; irate, yet spooky. Basically, it’s The Killers meets “The Monster Mash”—you think you’re getting a standard alternative-rock sound, but the hints of ghostly weirdness transform it into something else entirely.
Education opens with “The Factory Gates,” a rebellious anthem in which eerie synth melodies meet feverish guitar riffs. There’s an edge to Ricky Wilson’s voice as he sings about the oppression of the worker, though it’s unclear whether he realizes that Marx has beaten him to the punch by about 150 years. Some of the lyrics turn out to be less revolutionary than obvious: “You are contractually tied to the store.” (Well, yes, that’s what it means to be an employee.)
The agitated tone pushes forward into “Misery Company,” where fierce guitar hooks clash with menacing military references: “Reporting for duty / Stripes on my sleeve.” The attempt at seriousness is somewhat undermined by a maniacal repetition of “mwha ha ha!” which occurs periodically throughout the song. This laugh track was probably intended to sound darkly ironic, but instead brings to mind a wild-eyed Disney Ursula, convulsing in evil glee.
This distorted, sinister voice crops up again in “Cannons,” ordering the listener to “Look alive / Pick a side!” The track then closes with a two-minute war poem, the rather sensationally titled “The Occupation (of Damnation Eternal).” Read by Bill Nighy, it depicts a sort of exaggerated world meltdown, a political doomsday of the V for Vendetta variety.
Despite the tendency towards melodrama, Kaiser Chiefs loads their album with enough solid rock melodies to keep you hooked for a few go-rounds. “My Life” and “Coming Home” emerge as standout tracks—the latter seems to hint at an unrealized artistic potential by the band.
It seems, in their hurry to whip the listener up into a revolutionary frenzy, Kaiser Chiefs forgo subtlety and genuine emotion, which emerge only in a few tracks. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned here for the band: much as they’re like to lead the charge in overthrowing the system, revolution just isn’t quite their style.
Voice’s Choices: “My Life,” “Coming Home”