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Kaiser Chiefs-Off with Their Heads
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Kaiser Chiefs

Off with Their Heads

Format: Vinyl   Release Date: 10/28/2008
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Though "Ruby" was one of the Kaiser Chiefs' biggest hits, it and the rest of Yours Truly, Angry Mob were disappointing, trading Employment's ambitious spark for workmanlike consistency. It seemed like that could be the fate of the rest of the band's output until Lily Allen's funky pop cover of "Oh My God" appeared on Mark Ronson's album Version, which ultimately led to Ronson working on the Kaisers' third album. The golden touch Ronson had as a producer for artists like Allen and Amy Winehouse is also evident throughout Off with Their Heads: he imbues the band's spiky Brit-rock with his pop and dance music flair, throwing together strings, synths, live and programmed drums, exotic percussion and lots of guitars in a new wave-y/rave-y mix that nods to bands like Klaxons and Late of the Pier. The cheeky "Addicted to Drugs" gets an extra kick from Ronson's a go-go bells, giving the song a kinetic beat even though the rest of the track is straight-ahead guitar pop, while "You Want History"'s brisk hi-hats and surging synths flirt with the dancefloor. Ronson also brings in Allen as a guest vocalist for the excellent, slightly paranoid pop of "Always Happens Like That" and rapper Sway on "Half the Truth," who gives the song's angry young man rant against doublespeak a sharper edge. Of course, all the creative production and guest stars Ronson offers wouldn't mean anything if the Kaiser Chiefs' songwriting wasn't focused, but Off with Their Heads delivers on this front too. The band rails against stupidity and conformity like they did on Yours Truly, Angry Mob, but this time they know that while it's smart to be witty, it's even smarter to be insidiously catchy. The band's commentary is fused to some of their most pointed hooks: "Never Miss a Beat" rails against how "it's cool to know nothing" to a fittingly relentless rhythm. "Like It Too Much" touches on the Kaisers' latent XTC fetish -- words like "You are descended from animals/And you are constructed of chemicals" could have flowed from Andy Partridge's pen, and the song's lumbering stomp only heightens the similarity. Elsewhere, "Can't Say What I Mean" is wittily tongue-tied and "Good Days and Bad Days" manages the impressive feat of being happy-go-lucky with sounding complacent; more importantly, they show that the Kaiser Chiefs remember the playful spirit of British rock that a lot of traditionalist U.K. bands forget. A couple of songs lack the urgency of the album's best moments (though "Tomato in the Rain" boasts the great lyric "A policeman on the take/Weighted down in a lake" and "Remember You're a Girl" has a naggingly deja vu-inspiring melody), letting Off with Their Heads fall just short of greatness. Still, this is easily some of the Kaisers' finest -- and most consistent -- music. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

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