So, just imagine you're sitting an exam and this question comes up: Summarise in bullet points the KAISER CHIEFS' new album, EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION & WAR. Yes, happy to do that, makes a pleasant change from Lord of the Flies. Okay, thirty minutes, shhh, here we go...
* Tony Blair probably won't appreciate the clever title, so that's a good start. In my opinion, of course.
* Unusual WW1 and beyond-style artwork for the insert but it does reinforce the working-class call to duty theme throughout. No pics of the boys this time around either, unless there's more to those line drawings than meets the eye. No offence, but if so then your guess is as good as mine (suggest no-one lets the artist stray into any high court proceedings as it could only end in confusion and disappointment).
* Ten songs, seven of which are simply excellent. The remaining three 'Coming Home', 'Meanwhile Up In Heaven' and 'Roses' are okay but lack that certain Kaiser something. The singles chart may disagree with two thirds of that analysis, however.
* Bill Nighy may be the new, er, Pete Best (the sixth Kaiser?), judging from his performance in 'Cannons'. Heavy and quite weird, Bill, was there a temptingly helium-filled balloon nearby? 'Cannons' is also the almost-title track, a major pulse-thumping epic. Note to all dwarf-druids: this could turn out to be the new 'Stonehenge', so don't knock it.
* Hard and driving pop music permeates the majority of this album and thank God the quirkiness is still there for all to hear (see directly above). It's what makes the Kaiser Chiefs special.
* A few catchy anthem sing-alongs are included for good measure, especially effective (and amusing) is the slightly creepy laughing chorus of 'Misery Company' and the Adam Ant-type vocal stretches in 'One More Last Song'. The superb 'Bows & Arrows' also has the bonus of a rousing chant, "...we the people/created equal..." Again, all smartly designed to lift us up.
* EEE&W is, on balance, even better than its immediate predecessor 'The Future is Medieval' and proves that maturity hasn't stunted either musical progression or creativity. Whatever the case, the Kaiser Chiefs always like to slip in a little politics and social commentary, but this time it's considerably more to the fore. Fortunately, the extended solos, pained expressions and strange posturing so beloved of the dreaded 'concept' album still seems some way off.
* There's a small but rather sad typo in the printed lyrics to 'The Factory Gates' which could only have been set by a younger member of the art department. Michael Palin may be no spring chicken but, please, it's Alan Whicker (not Wicker, fGs) and HE had his passport stamped first, tch.
* Every member of the Kaisers puts in a great performance and Ricky Wilson's voice is in particularly good shape. He remains an integral part of the band's overall personality and sound - that plus an amiable and well-adjusted transition to tv...I predict if not a riot, then at least an enhanced set of future career opportunities for the frontman (he won my vote just for saying 'records' when he really meant 'cds' on The Voice). Now that's cool.
* There are times when the production gets very dense and the sound is a little murky as a result, as though every instrument in the studio cupboard - with the possible exception of the kazoo - just HAD to be used, sans restraint.
* There's a new drummer in town hammering on the skins but, yeah, he seems to have slotted in nicely. Let's hope he's from Yorkshire, or at least nearby.
* The songs that stand out most and resonate unconditionally with my musical tastebuds are: 'The Factory Gates', 'One More Last Song', 'Bows & Arrows' and 'Misery Company'. Total winners. And 'Ruffians on Parade' and 'Cannons' are themselves only a stone's throw from the top spot.
* This album will probably not feature on TB's wish list. His loss.
* Finally, and most importantly: five albums in and Leeds' finest are still at the top of their game. A few minor quibbles and concerns maybe (e.g. don't ever do a Coldplay and lose your unique personality), but a five-star product all the same. It will be played often and loud.
That's it, time's up, pens down, please try to file out in an orderly manner. Yes, not bad this education thing.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
I saw the Kaiser's at their Doncaster Racecourse concert only a few days ago (28.06.14) and they were fantastic live. With the kind of back catalogue they possess you can imagine the set list delivered in spades. All the band gave it everything and Ricky Wilson showed yet again just why he is such a force of nature, bouncing all over the stage, belting out some great vocals and not disappointing with his trademark witty banter between numbers, as the following exchange demonstrates...
RW: "Put your hands up if you've seen us play live before"
(Quite a few of the audience do just that, cheers)
RW: "Okay, put your hands up if this is your first Kaiser Chiefs gig"
(Quite a few others of the audience, including me and my wife, duly oblige, further cheers)
RW: "Okay...now put your hands up if you've seen us more than ten times"
(A small but very vocal number of the audience proudly let themselves be known)
RW: (slight pause, wicked grin) "You sad b-ds!"
Ouch. Perfect comic timing.
An unqualified success amid some noisy (albeit enthusiastic) race punters and the ever-present drizzle. What a night.