More about: Kaiser Chiefs
Stay Together is a hook-laden dance album stacked with anthems. It's all killer no filler record that makes the most of having access to a vast selection of musical instruments and recording equipment from being at the upper echelons of the music industry and sees the band hitting their stride in a whole new way. The guitars are cleaner and the synths are more prominent - it's like no Kaiser Chiefs album you've heard before.
Thematically, there's been a complete transition away from the protest music of their previous album, Education, Education Education, War. They've now turned their heads to that classic pop go-to: love. It's unearthing people's personal politics and as Wilson says in our interview "there's no shame in realising what's important is what's going on in your life, only then can you sort out what else is wrong with the world."
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But, surprisingly for a band who has had a top ten hit with every one of their albums, they haven't lent heavily on this topic in the past. First single 'Parachute' is a song boldly focused on love ("If I only had one Parachute, I'd give it to you") since 'Ruby'. The rest seems to align to that early taster of the album that was put out in the summer.
To name a few reasons it’s such a loud love album is there's 'Good Clean Fun', which Ricky Wilson says, "is a bit Gorillaz it's also a bit Amy Winehouse and about of a hedonistic relationship doomed to failure." There's song titles like, 'We Stay Together' and ‘Hole In My Soul'. Meanwhile, 'Why Do You Do It To Me' has a genuinely cathartic feel, as it features the line: “I make believe there's nothing wrong with you," and is driven by a visceral live drum sound angrily conveying the intensity of the experience in the words. All sides of the emotional roller-coaster that being in love brings seem to be traversed making for a dynamic, hook-laden listening experience.
So why this theme now?
“I don't think the opportunity arose before. After 'Ruby', we made an album that I think didn't sound that finished then Nick wanted to leave so we made The Future Is Medieval which keeps him interested because it was like a project. Then after that it was Education and War, which was political stuff."
Wilson seems to excel in this change of focus revelling in the challenges presented, and he holds seemingly little nostalgia for his protest album. "The thing about writing a protest album is it's straightforward. Only an idiot would disagree with you,” he says. “You're just saying war is bad. But when you start talking about relationships like on this record it's harder because there’s a lot more blurred line. There's no right or wrong.”
With Wilson's personality being quite typically British in regards to talking about his feelings, it's no wonder he felt sensitive to the nuances of this topic. "We're still Northern and in an indie band, you don't talk about relationships, it's not what you do," he explains.
But he found an intuitive way of dealing with his awkward, introverted, side of his - he let his stream of consciousness do the work. He adopted a recording style that contrasts with their usual way of writing – they usually come up with an albums worth of material and then take it to the studio.
"I would be in a different room with a different tape machine but hearing what the band were doing through headphones and writing to that," reveals Wilson. “I spent my days in Brian Higgins’ (producer) studio singing and singing and not writing stuff down just letting it out and Brain would find like that 20 seconds of brilliance in the ten hours of nonsense," he says. "That way I felt freer I could write whatever I wanted without thinking my mates going to think I'm weird."
Higgins has made a career with his method of, in Wilson’s words, “finding the best moments and pushing them further.” He runs Xenomania which is a hit making machine (agency). He’s played a key role in writing and/or coordinating a team of songwriters to come up with global burners where people get paid depending on how important their contribution is to the overall feel. One of his most notable success' is Cher’s ‘Believe’ and he played a crucial song writing role in the success of many number one pop group’s including Girls Aloud. He’s one of the most driven people in the music industry and his record is hard to fault.
His approach, which makes things instantly catchy, worked a treat on the Kaiser Chiefs in a way beyond the melodic hooks - it makes the delivery really interesting. As the tape rolled for so many hours it made the words that did arrive come from a deeper place, and the delivery has a real sense contradiction. He explains, "Brian would play my voice back to me and I'd go, 'Fucking hell, I didn't know I had that feeling in me'. It was like very spontaneous."
But having Higgins involved also meant letting go of some control on his part too: "On the song called ‘Press Rewind' I had written a verse and chorus and he's going ‘It's not good enough!’. A week later he had a recording of MNEK singing it. He got MNEK to write some other bits and in the past my ego would have been like ‘No this is my song.’ But I was like if MNEK makes it better, then he's made it better."
It seems combining one of the UK's most successful producers of all time - who is in a moment in his career when he only works with who he wants to" - has created an a record brimming with energy and with their most danceable set of tracks yet.
Live, the new stuff is really hitting the ground running even though the album hasn't been released yet. "'We've shocked ourselves a bit," he says 'Parachute' got a better reaction than 'Ruby' at Boardmasters, It's just confusing, I don't know why I don't think the audience knew why it's just we're enjoying it," he says, indicating this is the first material since those golden first two albums that's really getting people going.
All those hours holed up in the studio rattling his brain to its very limit and the hacking at it for hours to find the band's catchiest groove has paid off, as projecting the results to tens of thousands of people all summer who have lapped it up must have been a gratifying feeling. Just wait to see how explosive these songs become by the time they hit play the 02 Arena on 1 March when fans will have had the chance to properly digest the album. They're certainly an even more exciting live act with these songs to add to their set and it'll be great to see them not relying on the old hits for a reaction.
Stay Together is out Friday 7 October.
More about: Kaiser Chiefs