Politically charged Yorkshire collective Reverend and the Makers may be best-known for their continuous association with Arctic Monkeys (lead singer Jon McClure's previous band Judan Suki featured a young Alex Turner, while his new side project, Mongrel, includes their drummer Matt Helders and former bassist Andy Nicholson), but their debut, The State of Things, owed more to the Madchester funk of Happy Mondays and Stone Roses than the rambunctious indie punk of their closest allies. Second album A French Kiss in the Chaos furthers their ties with the Monkeys (whose best friend and early inspiration Milburn's lead guitarist Tom Rowley replaces, founding member Tom Jarvis) but slightly tones down the danceable grooves of its predecessor for a more guitar-based sound, which pushes McClure's outspoken and anarchic lyrics to the forefront. Indeed, after a recent rallying call to his fellow musicians to avoid writing about "girls at bus stops" and instead focus on real issues, this ten-track sophomore album shows that McClure can certainly practice what he preaches, with songs tackling the rise of the BNP (the Mars Volta-esque psychedelic rock of "Manifesto/People Shapers"), world-wide consumerism (the brass-fused James Bond-style lounge-pop of "Hidden Persuaders"), and global warming, the Conservative party and nuclear war (the atmospheric closing track "Hard Time for Dreamers"). The crowd-pleasing swagger that propelled their indie-disco anthem "Heavyweight Champion of the World" into the Top Ten is still very much alive on the euphoric fist-pumping lead single "Silence Is Talking," a Middle Eastern-flavored take on the expenses scandal which samples Californian jazz-funk outfit War's 1975 hit "Low Rider," and the lo-fi late-'90s Blur leanings of "Mermaids," where McClure's previously heavy Sheffield-accented tones appear to morph into a pretty uncanny impression of Ozzy Osbourne. But they're also joined by a number of more introspective offerings such as the John Lennon-ish piano-led melancholy of "Long Long Time" and the confessional Brill Building-influenced "No Soap (In a Dirty War)." A French Kiss in the Chaos' clunky political statements can often resemble the clumsy and naive ramblings of a sixth-form protestor, but its heart is in the right place, and if rumors of McClure's imminent musical retirement are true, the U.K. indie scene will have lost one of its most colorful and unpredictable luminaries.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien