A few salient points.
Kasabian: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
1. Comparisons to Oasis abound. And as discussed upon the release of Dig Out Your Soul, chances are listeners have long made their mind up about Kasabian and West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is unlikely to radically change perspectives.
Post-Britpop fodder, ladrock, music for the Stella generation; all labels thrown Kasabian’s way, something which, while they’ve certainly helped to exacerbate – both by being mouthy and adopting a Manc persuasion despite residing in Leicester – is perhaps a tad unfair.
Sure they’re unapologetic uber-fans of the Gallaghers, but they’ve been prone to dabble in terroritories completely alien to their heroes and always expressed a desire to be much more than rock & roll stars. And on West Ryder.. they go that bit further.
2. That cover. What were they thinking!?! It looks like they’ve raided the leftovers of Coldplay‘s dressing up box.
It’s one thing to adopt a persona, or onstage character, but this effort is more kids TV show than Sgt Pepper‘s arthouse. Oh dear.
There is however a lovely insect montage, reminiscent of Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb‘s basement, in the inlay.
3. There’s been much talk of Dan the Automator‘s ‘ace’ production and how he’s laced their milk with blockbusting hip-hop nous. BULLSHIT.
West Ryder.. is about as hip-hop as Status Quo.
4. Chris Edwards, you’ve probably never heard of him. He’s Kasabian’s anonymous powerhouse, who, despite being umpteen times better than, say, Oasis‘ original bassist Guigsy, hasn’t a jot of recognition. It’s his relentless, steady chug which fires the likes of LSF, Club Foot and new fuzz rollers Fast Fuse and upcoming single Underdog. If Kasabian are flagging, chances are Edwards is suppressed in the mix or barely involved.
5. Primal Scream have a lot to answer for. Since Screamadelica, almost every band that considers themselves ‘rock & roll’ feel the need to do a Damaged. West Ryder‘s.. update on a theme is the woeful string-induced, choir-backed closer Happiness. Again, the question why? springs to mind.
6. Mysticism and madness, two subjects which singer Tom Meighan was keen to trumpet on about in the build up to West Ryder.. and while there’s a certain contrived feel hanging over the Eastern strings, layers of heavy fug, lyrical silliness and detuned guitars, it’s very often these tracks which not only add an extra dimension to Kasabian‘s armoury but actually work best.
Where the likes of Vlad the Impaler are stock electro beasts, we’ve heard all of this before and bring mere shrugs to the table.
At the other end of the spectrum Secret Alphabets plies Arabian guitars, snaking moog and whispered Serge/Tom harmonies offering a fine alternative to their default Gallagher setting.
Likewise Take Aim is an intriguing, myriad of squealing drones, thickly plucked guitars and almost Royal synthesised atmospherics.
Then there’s the vaguely Eastern-meets-Mancunian Where Did All The Love Go?, a track so barnstorming you barely notice the ridiculousness of its lyrical content.
7. We saw Kasabian hanging out at the Mars Volta-curated ATP and were left wondering why, why, why can’t they be brave enough to make the record they so obviously would love to – a swirling abyss of noize, drone, prog and madness; here only the two-minute kraut noodle Swarfiga ventures close to this, but it fucks off before it’s given half a chance to burn.
8. ‘Poetry will be made by everyone, and emus will be in the zone.’
Part of the spoken word intro to West Ryder Bullet. Pretty much the only good bit. It features Kids and Sin City actress Rosario Dawson on backing vocals.
9. There’s a gaping hole in British Guitar Rock pleading for someone to step into the void previously – and probably still – occupied by Oasis. But since the downturn of Britpop, guitar-based music coming out of the UK hasn’t just been abject, it has been hamstrung due to an innate cynicism and an almost dismiss-out-of-hand attitude allowing few bands to nurture talent, let alone mature.
Kasabian are one such band to survive the constant barrage of doubt and criticism (perhaps simply because they’ve aligned themselves to camp Burnage), and on West Ryder.. they repeatedly, for better or worse, channel their energies into a lineage of great classic rock bands.
So you’ve The Kinks (Thick As Thieves sounds like a particularly wank reimagining of Oasis‘ The Importance of Being Idle), The Stones (a faux-heroin flake-out soulful ballad on the acceptable Ladies & Gentleman – a cousin of the Divine Comedy‘s Father Ted theme tune!) and The Doors (latest single Fire is a grower mixing dustbowl psyche with their characteristic electro thump).
10. And back to where we started – West Ryder is in essence Kasabian‘s Dig Out Your Soul; it stretches their ambition and adventure without ever coming close to tearing down the walls or removing the safety net.
For all guitarist and chief songwriter Serge Pizzorno‘s professed love of kraut, Tangerine Dream and outrock explosions of colour there’s little evidence on show here.
Nevertheless, congratulations of sorts are in order; Kasabian have successfully bypassed the as so often dull third album, but they’ve ultimately fallen short of making that mind-altering lunatic-rock West Ryder.. was so built up to be.
For fans of: Model train sets, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Victorian freak shows.
Kasabian: Underdog (live)