April 12, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Kaiser Chiefs

"we were obsessed with Mods and 60s music"

The turn of the 21st century saw an explosion of bands heavily influenced by punk, new wave and Britpop. One of the biggest is the Kaiser Chiefs whose songs show heavy influence from the mod revival of the 70s, the post-punk of the 80s, and the Britpop of the 90s. But it wasn't always so. The band originally formed by childhood friends Nick Hodgson, Nick Baines and Simon Rix was called Parva, and included their college mates Ricky Wilson and Andrew White. Parva had a much heavier and moodier sound, little success, and only one release to show for six years of existence. So, in 2003 they called it quits and decided to start all over as the Kaiser Chiefs.
How did you wipe the slate clean and change your sound? What happend was, we felt very excited. We didn’t feel down. We felt like it was the beginning of something. One day we said, ‘Right, that’s the last time we play those songs and it’s the last time we’re called Parva.’ We didn’t have another [band] name at that point. We just thought, everything changes from now. We smartened up. We used to wear big jeans with holes in them. We got a haircut and went back to our roots. When we first met and started the band in 1997, we were obsessed with Mods and 60s music, so we retraced our steps. We knew we loved The Jam and The Clash, but hadn’t been referring to them over the years.
The Chiefs debut album in 2004, Employment, was an explosion of post-punk sounds that crashed all the way to #2 on the UK charts. Employment chocked up a million and a half sales just in the UK alone largely on the success of the huge international top ten hits like the very Jam influenced "I Predict A Riot" (#9), "Everyday I Love You Less and Less" (#10), "Oh My God" (#6), and "Modern Way" (which just missed stopping at #11).

As great an album as Employment is, it isn't their best. That would be their sophmore release Yours Truly Angry Mob which is a tour de force of mod influenced art punk. Yours Truly hit the top of the charts, thanks to #1 single "Ruby." The whole album is solid, packed with mature Britpop songs like the soft psychadelic pop of "Love's Not A Competition", the sizzling "Everything Is Average Nowadays", and the fuzzy new wavish "Thank You Very Much". The songwriting shows the influence of Ray Davies and Paul Weller throughout, and the orchestration is lavish, but in a way that bolsters the songs without overshadowing them The highlight of Yours Truly Angry Mob for me though has always been the song featured today "Heat Dies Down."

The band's third release in October 2008, Off With Their Heads, has kept them in the limelight and peaked at #2. While has a more mainstream sound, it still has moments of sharp songwriting. They've also done some great covers -- reinterpretations actually -- of The Beatles, Marvin Gaye and 60s mod rockers The Move. Heavy touring has taken its toll with the band announcing they will take some time off now to relax and refuel their creative juices.

Kaiser Chiefs -- Heat Dies Down