An obnoxious girl sways with stilettos in hand, mouthing off to inanimate objects, like light posts or parked taxis, to get out of her way. Stank breath, pseudo-posh drunk dudes who are angry about not getting that girl’s number decide they don’t like your pin striped jacket, Morrissey pin, or shag hair cut, and then accuse you of looking the wrong way. Slurred threats are exchanged and before you know it, you have a drunken brawl on your hands.
So goes the precarious scene depicted by "I Predict a Riot" – the undeniably catchy hit single from the Leeds-based Kaiser Chiefs – a band that encompasses everything we love about sing-along, dance-worthy, fist-pumping pop rock without sounding derivative, and without the retching "TRL" aftertaste left in our mouths by bands that are this overwhelmingly liked.
In the 2004 yearbook of British breakout bands, The Darkness would have been voted most likely to abuse falsetto, Razorlight most likely to stay cool and the Music most likely to be caught smoking pot in the boys’ bathroom. But with fast and quirky, intelligent songs that hint at classics like The Clash and Roxy Music, the Kaiser Chiefs would have been voted most likely to surprise over the radio, make you crank the volume and call the station demanding to know the band’s name while frantically maneuvering four lanes of traffic on the 101 North.
"The other day someone said that we sounded like everything they’ve ever heard but like nothing they’d heard before, at the same time," recounts Kaiser’s vocalist Ricky Wilson, an energetic frontman who charms both onstage and off with his sly yet good natured, self depreciating humor.
"Some people say it’s a bit superficial writing pop tunes, but pop music can be the best," says Wilson. "Madness was a brilliant band with perfect pop songs that an 8-year-old kid and a 40-year-old man could like … [the songs] were able to transcend age. That’s what good pop music should be."
It becomes clear listening to the Kaiser Chiefs’ debut Employment (Universal), out on March 15, that the band is well on its way to mastering the art of the transcendent pop song. Singles like "Oh My God" and "I Predict a Riot" have already climbed the charts both in the states and in the UK, flaunting the music’s congenial nature and audience accessibility, despite whether or not being "pissed" means losing your temper or getting thoroughly drunk in your country jargon.
At its core, Employment is an album bursting with vivacity. But the strength of the Kaiser Chiefs goes beyond their abilities to churn out a good pop tune. The band – completed by guitarist Andrew White, bassist Simon Rix, keyboardist Nick Baines and drummer Nick Hodgson – absolutely captivates live.
"I get very nervous," Wilson admits, though one wouldn’t know it based on the singer’s tendency to jump wildly around stage and chat candidly with the crowd. "A live show is about enjoying yourself, really. Some bands moan about being on the road, but I keep telling them to shut up because we’re from Leeds – which isn’t the swankiest part of England – and we’re allowed to go on free holiday to L.A where we get to sing and play every night.
"It’s like a free holiday with karaoke! We do it with a smile on our faces. I want to play to as many people as I can because I don’t think there’s any point in doing it if I can’t."
Employment releases on March 15. For more information, visit www.kaiserchiefs.co.uk.