Inspired by that moment sometime in the late '70s when punk gave birth to new wave (and looked back to the heyday of '60s mod for inspiration), the Kaiser Chiefs' debut, Employment, expands on the sharp, sussed sound of their singles in surprising ways. A look at British life and its discontents, Employment is a remarkably ambitious debut album that aspires, right down to its cheeky liner notes and graphics, to be the Parklife or All Mod Cons of the 2000s. While it doesn't quite reach those heights, it does have its fair share of memorable songs. Chief among them is the one-two punch of "Everyday I Love You Less and Less," a tightly wound "get lost" song that seamlessly mixes the band's punky guitar-bass-drums attack with synths and drum machines, and their signature single, "I Predict a Riot," another prime example of the band's barbed, pissed-off pop. "Saturday Night" is another standout; with its brassy stomp and lyrics like "watching the boys on their motorbikes/I want to be like those guys," it's a Quadrophenia-like understanding of what it is to be lonely in a crowd. On songs like moody-yet-stylish "Modern Way" and the cheeky, contradictory "Na Na Na Naa," the Kaiser Chiefs sound so effortlessly "on" that it's something of a surprise when Employment begins to lose momentum. Despite its pretty '60s pop melody, "You Can Have It All" drags a bit, while the vaudeville-tinged "Time Honoured Tradition" and "Born to Be a Dancer" are too precious and theatrical for their own good. Although it's not among their best songs musically, and its Beach Boys piss-take title is a little annoying, "Caroline, Yes" is one of the Kaiser Chiefs' more interesting bits of songwriting: on the surface, the narrator is upset because the other guy took Caroline away from him, but what really gets him is that the other guy is "everything I want to be in my life." Likewise, Employment ends with "Team Mate," a tantalizingly short character sketch that is also the band's best ballad. The Kaiser Chiefs' ambition is a double-edged sword: it's admirable that they wanted to branch out in so many directions on their first full-length, but it might have been a better -- or safer, at least -- move to stick to the amazing rockers that made their name in the first place. Employment is an uneven but still very promising debut that suggests that one day the Kaiser Chiefs will pull off something even more ambitious.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares