Album Review: Kaiser Chiefs ‘The Future Is Medieval’

While the way the Kaiser Chiefs released their latest album ‘The Future Is Medieval’ was almost certainly aimed to thwart music pirates, it has also inadvertently thwarted music critics.

Basically they recorded twenty new tracks, so that anyone could pick the ten they want, order them how they desire, and even create their own artwork, before paying £7.50 for the finished product. Personally I think it was an inspired move, but it certainly makes reviewing the album a bit difficult. It’s not fair to review all twenty songs, because that’s not what you pay for when you buy the album: purchasing all songs would take two transactions. But yet equally it’s not really fair to review just one version of the album, because out of the twenty songs there are 184756 possible combinations of ten tracks, so everybody’s experience of the album is going to be radically different.

So let’s do this the easy way then: it’s a Kaiser Chiefs album, so you know exactly what to expect. It’s the same stuff as they’ve been doing for a decade. While the selling mechanism was inspired and creative, the music certainly isn’t. That isn’t to say it’s an unlikable album- I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the Kaiser Chiefs, and seeing as the music is the same there’s no reason for this to change now.

It’s less anthemic than their previous efforts, but there are still the typical sing along moments here, such as Dead Or In Serious Trouble and first single Little Shocks. When All Is Quiet is probably my favourite song (at least on the version of the album that I created), and If You Will Have Me demonstrates the band’s softer side with perhaps surprising success. This being said, I just can’t escape the feeling that, despite recording twenty songs for this album, there really aren’t ten that are good enough to be on it. This is the classic Kaiser Chiefs problem: their good music can be pretty great at times, but their filler just isn’t even worth bothering with. This hasn’t changed with the unconventional method of releasing the album.

The song order and artwork are fucking fantastic though.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the more interesting aspect of this album: the way it was released. As well as giving fans creative control to personalise their own album, Kaiser Chiefs aimed to incentivize content creation by giving fans £1 for each version of their own album that they sell. While this isn’t exactly new on the internet (look to sites such as Threadless for similar business models), as far as I can tell it’s the first time it has been applied to music.

As of now the most popular version of the album has sold 68 copies, netting its creator £68 and the Kaiser Chiefs a lazy £442. That’s fantastic, and yes, it may well be the future of the music industry. This being said, the model is not without its problems. Diehard fans are going to want all twenty songs anyway, so are either going to buy two copies of the album and merge them or simply buy one copy and pirate the remaining ten songs. Even casual fans are probably going to want to create their own album rather than buying someone else’s, if only for the novelty value.

Additionally, not every band can afford to record twenty new songs for one album, and not every band wants to give fans control over their tracklist. As mentioned, it’s also a real bitch for music critics, which seems like a trivial problem but could actually be a serious issue for new bands looking for favourable press coverage.

So, weighing everything up, while this method of selling music is fantastic, it’s not without its problems, and probably can’t function as a one-size-fits-all solution to the issues facing the music industry. It’s not going to replace quality collector’s edition album packages as a way of getting people to buy music. However you have to give mad props to the band for trying something genuinely new and different. There was so much fuss about the way that Radiohead sold ‘In Rainbows’, but in reality what the Kaiser Chiefs have done here is much more revolutionary, even if it has numerous problems.

And the music is okay.

4 Responses to “Album Review: Kaiser Chiefs ‘The Future Is Medieval’”

  1. Thanks for the interesting take on this one. Being a casual fan and fairly lazy, it’ll be an interesting experience. I really enjoy good album artwork so if there’s something that catches my eye, I’ll take the easy route and make someone £1 richer.

  2. I had to get all 20 tracks. This album is brilliant. I love the Kaiser Chiefs.

  3. Personally I think this album redeems them from their last. Definitely need to listen to all 20 though…


  1. Kaiser Chiefs: The Future is Medieval | - June 11, 2011

    […] Props to the guys at And Pluck Your Strings for working out the […]

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