Yours Truly, Angry Mob Label: Universal
It’s tempting to roll one’s eyes upon hearing that a certain album is a “grower,” but the cliché exists for a reason: some albums truly need a few spins before the layers peel back and the musical bounty reveals itself. This expression is typically used for more obtuse recordings like OK Computer – or, if you’re really patient, Metal Machine Music – but Employment, the debut album by the Kaiser Chiefs, qualifies as well. In retrospect, this seems strange: how on earth were songs like “Everyday I Love You Less and Less” and “Oh My God” anything but instantly memorable and Velcro catchy? A week after I turned in my review for Employment, I wanted to raise the rating by at least half a star.
Then I sat down and listened to Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the sophomore effort from my now beloved Chiefs. After the first spin, it hit me: My God, they made an album that’s even more of a grower than the first one. To use a parallel with a band that was clearly a huge influence on the lads, if Employment was their Parklife, Angry Mob is their The Great Escape. Where they sounded merely confident on Employment, they sound absolutely huge on Angry Mob.
Leadoff track “Ruby” is unquestionably the best choice for a hit single. It taps into that “Oh My God” beat but ramps up the guitar and pairs it with a silly but unforgettable chorus that has four lines but only needs one. Sure, intricate wordplay and snazzy chord progressions are great, but sometimes all you need is “Ruby Ruby Ruby Rubyyyyy!” Less is almost always more. Never forget it.
Then there’s “The Angry Mob,” which earns two and a half stars on its own. The first half is a minor-key “Modern Way” type, which gives way in the back half to the best chain gang chorus since the Godfathers’ “Birth, School, Work, Death.” “We are the angry mob, we read the papers every day / We like who we like, we hate who we hate, but we’re also easily swayed.” If they sang this in front of a big enough group of people, well, I’d predict a riot. God, I feel so dirty for cracking that joke.
Admittedly, some patterns in the band’s songwriting approach emerge. If “Ruby” is “Oh My God” and “The Angry Mob” is “Modern Way,” then “Heat Dies Down” is “I Predict a Riot,” two-note organ squawks and all. “Highroyds,” meanwhile, is “Na Na Na Na Naa” with a dash of Jarvis Cocker. “I remember nights out when we were young / They weren’t very good, they were rubbish,” singer Ricky Wilson cracks. Speaking of Cocker, “My Kind of Guy” is a glorious tribute to Pulp’s This is Hardcore, though it actually lays over half that album to complete and utter waste.
Wilson has actually become quite the clever lyricist, and the beauty of his words is in the simplicity. “Love’s not a competition, but I’m winning,” he brags in the dreamy acoustic ballad of the same name. Then he hits the end of the second chorus and admits, “At least I thought I was,” which provides a nifty twist. A less confident lyricist would have wasted 50 words saying the same thing. And while Wilson has fine-tuned his pen, the band has extended its musical influences into surprising directions. “Boxing Champ,” for example, is 90 seconds of pure Housemartins heaven. The Housemartins. Who saw that coming?
Yours Truly, Angry Mob is one of those albums that will likely drive their record label nuts. They know it’s good and they’re glad to have it, but they’re going to have a hell of a time figuring out how to sell it because, well, it’s not sexy the way most hip and cool records are sexy. Still, it’s one of those records that will open a dozen doors in the minds of the people who hear it, and some of those people will go buy the records that influenced the Kaiser Chiefs. Some of them will even form bands of their own. We can hope, anyway.