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Lyrics and Life

 

By Caitlin Ward

06/03/2015
Na Na Na Na Naa
Kaiser Chiefs

One, two, one, two, three, four

It does not move me
It does not get me going at all
Na na na na naa (x2)

It does not shift me
It’s not the kind of thing that I like
Na na na na naa (x2)

It does not move me
It’s not the kind of thing that I like
Na na na na naa (x2)

She does not listen
She’s too wrapped up with all of her things
Na na na na naa (x2)

This does not get to me
She’s not the kind of girl that I like
Na na na na naa (x2)

She does not move me
She’s not the kind of girl that I like
Na na na na naa (x2)

It does not move me
It’s not the kind of thing that I like
Na na na na naa (x4)

It does not move me
(it does not move me)
It does not get me going at all

It does not shift me
(it does not shift me)
It’s not the kind of thing that I like

It does not move me
It’s not the kind of thing that I like
Na na na na naa (x4)

I feel a bit of a jerk for starting a column like this for the second week in a row, but I’ve got to say I have always been skeptical of Kaiser Chiefs. That would have been (and believe me, was) a far more controversial statement to make 10 years ago, when they released debut album Employment. It went six times platinum in the U.K. and managed to make a dent in the American charts at a time when U.K. guitar bands had very little impact on this side of the Atlantic. The fact that I thought their lyrics were inane and Ricky Wilson’s voice was annoying never played well with my far-flung fellow music nerd friends. It didn’t seem to be allowed.

I had to watch Ricky Wilson on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, they said. I could find it on YouTube, they said. You’ll love it, they said. What is Never Mind the Buzzcocks? I said.

No one answered. Instead, they directed me to this show. I expected there to be some sort of brilliant musical performance that would change my mind about Kaiser Chiefs, but there wasn’t. That wasn’t the point. Never Mind the Buzzcocks (or NMTB, because we’re cool like that) was sort of a music show, but not entirely.

For those who know about popular English television formats, it will be familiar, but for those who don’t: it’s a celebrity panel show. There’s a host and two teams (each with a captain) who play games for points that don’t matter. In the case of NMTB, the host, team captains, and guests were a combination of comedians, television presenters and indie musicians, and the questions and games all revolved around music.

NMTB was my first introduction to this television format. In this episode I simply I had to watch, Ricky Wilson was guest hosting after the departure of original host Mark Lamarr. I think the point my music nerd friends were trying to make was that Wilson was funny and charming and self-deprecatingly lovely.

This was all true, but none of that had anything to do with how grating I found Wilson’s voice, the inanity of their lyrics, or the fact that they would bend over backward to make a rhyme nobody wanted in the first place. No, Ricky. Glory and history don’t rhyme.

For a long time, the only Kaiser Chiefs song I could stand was Na Na Na Na Naa, and that was only because Wilson did a comic rendition of it with the team captains at the end of this NMTB episode he hosted. The attempt to make me love Kaiser Chiefs failed, but I became obsessed with NMTB. I found and watched as many old episodes I could, and waited for new series of it with bated breath. Some episodes I watched and rewatched so often I can still quote from them, even though I haven’t seen them for the better part of a decade: “oh, he’s so English. Look at him. He’s so good-looking and English, I just want to punch him in the face,” or “I think trumpets and drugs have always gone hand in hand and it’s nothing to do with me.”

Significantly, every fan of the show I knew was a woman. It resonated with young female music fans in a way it didn’t seem to with men. I doubt it was aimed at women, frankly, but there was a lot about it that appealed to us. It wasn’t about musician as untouchable artist; it was about musician as fallible, funny human being. There are certain bands I might never have found if not for NMTB, but perhaps more importantly, it showed a different side of musicians. Fish out of water on a panel show, it felt like their guards were down. Mark Ronson is charmingly awkward and moves his head like a furious duck when he’s singing. Josh Groban, probably brought on to be lampooned, is quite clever and ran circles around Simon Amstell. Adele is a genuine and funny person and I kind of want to be her friend.

In its early years, NMTB was a rebellious pushback against a music industry that had become incredibly plastic. Lamarr was a 1950s throwback with a vinyl collection that would have rivaled most record shops at the time (it would beat most record shops, now). He was caustic and hilarious and not afraid to cut anyone down to size if he thought they deserved it (and also if he thought they could handle it). As the show went on, and Lamarr was succeeded by Simon Amstell, NMTB went from occasionally caustic to quite nasty, and apparently by the time Amstell left it was hard to get musicians on because he seemed to book people just to mock them. During his tenure, there were a fair number of times that guests walked out mid-show.

I had not thought of any of these things for years, but it was just announced that the show’s 28th series, aired in the fall of 2014, would be its last. Based on the articles people have been writing about it since the announcement, it seems like the show’s going to be remembered (at least, initially) for the nasty streak that ran through it.

I hope, in the end, it isn’t. What I and my fellow music types loved was not the show’s anger, but its cheerfulness. Things did take nasty turns on occasion, but generally it was more dry than cruel, as the kinder team captains softened the host’s barbs.

I can’t say I was devastated when I heard the show had been cancelled, because I haven’t watched it with any regularity for years. But it’s reminded me of a lot of things. I got back in touch with fellow music nerds and journalists who I hadn’t talked with in years. We recounted favourite episodes and favourite lines to one another. And even though I haven’t watched it in years, I’m still sad it’s gone. For a generation of young female music fans, NMTB was a safe space for us to be ourselves, and fannish, and funny, and sometimes silly, and not worry about being belittled for it. There aren’t a lot of spaces like that for women.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings