30 June 2009

>>>Kasabian>>>West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum>>>They may not look it but Kasabian are pretty clever blokes. In the build up to their third album, they released "Vlad The Impaler" online for a limited period, along with a video featuring every emo/scene/hipster/whatever girl's favourite comedian/pin-up Noel Fielding, running around being zany as usual. Then, they managed to get album opener "Underdog" to soundtrack the latest Sony Bravia advert which featured Kaka (wearing an AC Milan kit only a matter of months before switching to Real Madrid...woops). So far, so good in terms of exposure. Add to this a top 3 single with "Fire", roping in Rosario Dawson of Sin City fame for a duet ("West Rider/Silver Bullet") and being billed as Bruce Springsteen's 'special guests' at Glasto, Kasabian are certainly setting themselves up to be a Big Band™.

"West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" certainly has all the hallmarks of a typical Big Band™ album; the preposterous name, the band's bravado around the release and a lot of psychedlic flavouring...if you catch my drift. In terms of the latter, it goes from the superb breakdown of second single proper "Where Did All The Love Go?" to the just plain oddness of the intro of the aforementioned Rosario Dawson duet (probably the only time the phrase "emus in the zone" will appear on an album). Whilst the psychedelia is fairly evident throughout, "West Ryder..." still has more than it's fair share of 'old Kasabain'. Tom Meighan's barked vocals on "Underdog" hark back to their debut, whilst "Vlad The Impaler" welcomes back the ground shaking bass that has characterised virtually every Kasabian hit.

But the pick of the bunch has to be "Fast Fuse". Released last year as a limited edition vinyl single, it's up with the band's best; a frantic, bluesy rocker with the best riff Noel Gallagher never wrote. Whilst the folksy "Thick As Thieves" offers a calmer but just as catchy side to the band as well as providing evidence that Sergio Pizzorno isn't that bad of a singer, the rest of the album appears to be little more than filler, and not even good filler at that. If anything "Ladies And Gentlemen (Roll The Dice)" resembles the dirges that made up the numbers on Oasis' post-Morning Glory, pre-Dig Out Your Soul albums, "Swarfiga" is a bland instrumental that goes nowhere remotely interesting and "Secret Alphabets" and "Happiness" are little more than Beatles pastiches that are only marginally better than The Enemy's efforts at the same.

The much-discussed cover may give the impression of a 21st Century "Sgt. Pepper's..." but the album itself is slightly more conservative, much less forward-thinking than that landmark. That's not to say that Kasabian haven't produced their best work to date, and one of the more brave albums of the year, in terms of branching out musically. I just hope Tom Meighan gets a good haircut and fast.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Underdog", "Where Did All The Love Go?", "Fast Fuse", "Vlad The Impaler", "Take Aim", "Fire"
FOR FANS OF: Oasis, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Primal Scream


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