Like neo-garage, the recent neo-new-wave boom has begun to taper off dramatically, as bands like Franz Ferdinand put out follow-up albums that merely reclaim ground long since won. But amid what appears to be the last throes, a few new bands have been turning up a few old sounds not yet worn down from overuse. Exactly a year ago, Kaiser Chiefs' import single "I Predict A Riot" revived the spirit of Sham 69—all football chants and pub brawl—and when the Leeds band's debut album, Employment, reached the U.S. in early '05, it revealed an eclectic Britpop act good for more than pints and pogo-ing.
Employment is top-loaded with surging neo-new-wave like "Everyday I Love You Less And Less," "Modern Way," and "Na Na Na Na Naa," but the album starts to open up with track five, "You Can Have It All," which is beholden more to The Moody Blues and Paul McCartney than The Boomtown Rats. From that point on, Employment becomes a mini-compendium of Britpop from the '60s to now, and Kaiser Chiefs become rock essayists, making connections between the old and the new by following secret passageways. The practical effect of the plan is that the band pumps out one too many songs like "Time Honoured Tradition" and "Saturday Night," which fit the historical puzzle but are too generic to be enjoyed in and of themselves. But if going through the stages of Britpop is what it takes to get from the insanely catchy hooligan-rock of "I Predict A Riot" to the music-hall theatrics of "Born To Be A Dancer," then Kaiser Chiefs should keep poking around.