At one point in Kaiser Chiefs' sixth album, Stay Together, frontman Ricky Wilson declares "Pop music. This is pop music. We are writing and recording pop music." Indeed, Stay Together marks a giant shift for the Leeds band. It's a cheery collection that celebrates love and life, incorporating electronic dance elements, funky bass rhythms, and a shiny sheen courtesy of Xenomania's Brian Higgins (Kylie Minogue, Sugababes, New Order), mixer Serban Ghenea (Rihanna, Taylor Swift), and songwriters Wayne Hector (One Direction, Westlife) and MNEK (Beyoncé, Madonna). While the Kaisers may have started as Blur-lite party-starting lads, they're shooting for pop glory on Stay Together, in a fashion similar to Coldplay's jump on "A Sky Full of Stars" or A Head Full of Dreams. Taking it from the club to the disco, the party never stops, it's just the tempo that bobs and weaves. The main inspirations run the generational gamut. Classic New Order basslines abound. They channel Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" on "Sunday Morning" and Let's Dance-era Bowie on the glorious opener, "We Stay Together," where Wilson does his best impression of Damon Albarn's falsetto commonly employed with his other band, Gorillaz. The distorted tropical vocal effects popularized by Jack U on the Justin Bieber hit "Where Are U Now" pop up on the explosively buoyant single "Hole in My Soul," while Empire of the Sun get a nod on the glimmering neo-disco jam "Indoor Firework." "Good Clean Fun" might be Kaiser Chiefs' first song overtly about sex, where Wilson dons an early-'90s George Michael jean jacket and gyrates his way through lines like "sex makes everything better." Most of these risks land without much distraction, but like the jarring addition of grime rap that appeared on Off with Their Heads, Stay Together will no doubt divide fans. For those who appreciate fearless exploration of new ideas from a band that is hungry for change and reinvigoration, the Kaisers' brave step into the future is a fun diversion from their usual rollicking and energetic rock show. While the pop flair and immediately addictive nature of these songs may not be as nourishing or urgent as past "rock" efforts, Stay Together is undeniably upbeat and revels in its conviction to make you move.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung