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CD Spotlight Riot squad 

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If my count is correct, we're now entering the fourth wave of Brit-pop. While the form always adheres to the Ray Davies template of English slice-of-life vignettes set to richly melodic three-minute songs, the specific feel changes with each era. The first wave celebrated and lampooned the Swinging London of the 1960s; the late-'70s revival spearheaded by Squeeze took inspiration from the punk and New-Wave movements; while the '90s emergence of Blur reflected an affection for the sonic deconstructions of Pavement and its school of Amerindie rock.

The Leeds-based Kaiser Chiefs recall any number of bands from Rhino's DIY collections of British power-pop and punk, but they're as much a product of their time as UK emcee The Streets. The signature tune from the Chiefs' debut album, Employment, is a dizzy romp entitled "I Predict A Riot." The title inevitably invites comparisons to the Clash, who famously called for a "White Riot" in 1977. But where the Clash sang from the inside of England's festering punk-era rage, Chiefs' singer Ricky Wilson sounds like an alternately nervous and amused spectator, predicting anarchy the same way he'd predict the result of a weekend soccer match. For him, the revolution will be televised, and that's how he plans to observe it.

On tracks such as "Riot" and the charmingly stroppy opener "Everyday I Love You Less and Less" ("I've got to get infections off my chest/the doctor says all I need is some rest"), the Chiefs sound like a perfect amalgam of all the great rock 'n' roll that followed the '60s British Invasion: the driving beat of the Ramones, the harmonies of the Beach Boys (who they honor with a song called "Caroline, Yes") the sleek synth lines of the Cars, the agitprop funk of Gang of Four, etc. Their songwriting doesn't always maintain this spark, but the peaks on Employment suggest the Chiefs are up to the task of resurrecting Brit-pop.

Gilbert Garcia


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April 8, 2020

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