It has seemed for the last few years that the Kaiser Chiefs had become a little, well, predictable. An excellent live band, but suffering from the law of diminishing returns when it came to new material. After their excellent debut Employment and it's follow up Yours Truly, Angry Mob, their subsequent offerings have been increasingly disappointing.
With the release of the greatest hits offering Souvenir, you could be forgiving for thinking that would be that and they would shuffle off to be remembered fondly by their fans and those who had enjoyed a sing-a-long at a festival or two. It seems Nick Hodgson (their drummer and the main creative driving force behind the band) agreed, announcing his departure to pursue new projects.
That there is a new Kaiser Chiefs album at all is therefore something of a surprise, and it has been written and recorded by a band who feel they have something to prove - to their former drummer, to the public, and perhaps most of all to themselves.
And prove something they have done, with one or two reservations.
At times the album feels like standard fare for the Kaiser Chiefs (The Factory Gates and Bows and Arrows, for example) and such offerings they have done better previously, although that's not to say these are bad tracks - far from it. But they are no "I Predict A Riot" or "Ruby".
But elsewhere on the album they exhibit a willingness to take risks and try something different. Coming Home is certainly a departure in style for the band, but such safe middle of the road territory is thankfully atypical - in fact, despite being the lead single for the album it feels rather out of place here.
Misery Company is probably the stand out track, featuring a chorus of Rick laughing like some sort of demented Laughing Policeman. Cannons is another strong song, featuring poetry recited by Bill Nighy - not something previously heard on a Kaisers album!
What the album lacks, compared to their earlier efforts, is the strong catchy hooks that launched them to stardom. It is a collection of strong, and in many cases interesting songs but lacking the obvious hits needed to turn a good album into a great one.
But there is no shame in writing a merely "good" album, and it is certainly better than not only their more recent efforts but most other new albums you will hear this year.
Newcomers to the band would be better served by purchasing their first two albums, but to anyone who has already bought those and is wondering if they need another Kaiser Chiefs album in their collection I would say buy this and give it a chance - you will probably be pleasantly surprised.