Release Date: Jul 26, 2019
Record label: Polydor
Given the risky but ultimately satisfying play they made with 2016's sharp pop turn Stay Together, English indie rock vets Kaiser Chiefs take a few steps back with their uneven seventh set, Duck. With its casual, adult contemporary vibe, the album feels like the soundtrack to a suburban garden party thrown by a fortysomething who's attempting to seem both cool and mature. There are faint traces of a hip, youthful past, but otherwise it's merely enjoyable in the moment and forgettable as soon as the guests climb back into their cars to return home.
The Leeds lads are casually confident on their seventh(!) record, which boasts everyman anthems and even a reference to sitcom hero Frasier Crane "People keep on saying the songs that they've been playing will never ever change the world," sings Ricky Wilson on the feel-good romp of 'Duck' single 'People Know How To Love One Another'. "There's boots on the ground and every single sound is like a bomb that will never explode". Maybe he's looking back on the years since the early '00s indie revolution, with the fires of the riot they once predicted now largely extinguished.
It's hard to please your longtime fans and casual, festival goers too... Kaiser Chiefs have been walking a thin line lately. Their mainstream presence diminished considerably, as rock music lost ground at the beginning of this decade. However, they still fill out arenas in the UK and Europe, besides the occasional big festival runs. So, in order to keep things smooth on the live circuit side, they have been churning arena rock ditties.
F requently while listening to Duck, you remember: this man judges a TV singing competition. It's not that Ricky Wilson was indie's greatest singer, but he knew what to do with his voice, a bawdy, beery thing that could definitely talk you into another pint. But now he's a shiny-floor entertainer, parochial indie culture is dead, and Wilson sounds adrift.
H aving dallied with Xenomania's Brian Higgins for their poppy, patchy, yet commendably risky sixth album Stay Together (2016), the Leeds lads return to the indie arms of Ben H Allen, producer of their fifth, Education, Education, Education & War and albums by Deerhunter and Animal Collective. Duck crashlands in as confused a space as that might suggest; it's a very mainstream record, but doesn't sound sure that it wants to be. The fun-for-all-the-family positivity of Northern Holiday and the northern soul-flavoured parp and punch of People Know How to Love One Another stumble hard on former The Voice judge Ricky Wilson's dead-eyed delivery.