Kasabian – 48:13
Release date: 9 June
In a recent feature on Kasabian by The Guardian’s Caspar Llewellyn Smith, the writer explains how in a recent meeting he told Serge how terrible his band is, and that they are “solely responsible for every failure of contemporary rock’n’roll.” (link)
Later on Caspar dials down his extreme view of the band, but not before he uses phrases such as ‘boorish’, ‘Oasis knock-offs’ and ‘lairy’ to describe Kasabian. To his credit, Serge does his best to stay polite, questioning “why the broadsheet press don’t seem to like us.”
It’s not just the broadsheet press that always seem to have the knives out for Kasabian. Lazy and dismissive labels like ‘lad-rock’ have peppered reviews of the Leicester band throughout their career – with ‘critics’ never failing to scoff up their sleeves at everything from the lyrics, the stadium-rock ambitions and their cocksure, ‘working class’ swagger.
It’s music snobbery at it’s most pretentious and, now the band prepare to release their fifth album, it shows no sign of abating. Early reviews of 48:13 have so far singled out the lyrics as the stick to beat them with, and focused on little else.
To be fair, 48:13 gives the haters a lot of ammo in that department. If you try and follow the narrative of ‘stevie’ or ‘doomsday’ for instance, you’ll end up getting tied up in metaphorical knots and tangents that lead to nowhere in particular, with nothing but meaningless hooks like ‘live to fight another day’ and ‘what you see is what you get’ to cling to.
Devoting so much time to follow and understand Kasabian’s music from a literal perspective is redundant though. Although their music may invite such a reading, it doesn’t warrant it. Kasabian are a mood band. They make music that creates tension and excitement – the kind of songs that put a spring in your step on the way to work in the morning, or that makes you forget your tired feet on Sunday night at Glastonbury…
When you listen to 48:13 from that perspective, it actually starts to sound like their best album yet. In my review of Velociraptor! back in 2011, I mentioned that Kasabian still hadn’t made a consistent enough album to really measure up against the likes of Arctic Monkeys as one of the BIG rock bands of their generation.
With 48:13 and all its ‘stripped-back’ affectations they might just have cracked it – which is not to say it isn’t without it’s faults. Some of the lyrics are criminal, particularly lead single ‘eez-eh’ and its talk of being ‘on bugle’ and ‘being watched by Google’. Even more criminal though is its resemblance to Madness’ ‘Baggy Trousers’ (trust me, once you hear the similarities the track is ruined).
Likewise the chorus on ‘doomsday’, although passionately delivered by Tom, is all a bit too ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ to be taken seriously.
Seasoned Kasabian fans are used to such indiscretions though, and once you drop your guard and let them fly 48:13 becomes an album full of crowd pleasers.
The initial burst of ‘bumblebee’ following the low-key instrumentals of ‘(shiva)’ is the adrenalin shot you expect from a Kasabian album, and the explosion of the chorus is destined to be a highlight of their big summer of gigs.
‘treat’ is the album’s centrepiece and is a great example of how Kasabian are starting to progress as a band – taking their best ideas from previous albums (most notably the melodic synths from Velociraptor’s ‘I Hear Voices’) and developing them into something even better. ‘treat’ builds and builds in a riot of discordant elements before opening up into a beautiful three-and-a-half minute synth outro. Other than The Horrors, I can’t think of another UK band capable of pulling a song like ‘treat’ off.
Elsewhere, Serge does a good job of creating an atmospheric ‘political’ track with ‘glass’ (sample lyric: “stop all human interaction / keep them in their corners”) which also features a bit of spoken-word polemicising from Suli Breaks, and both ‘clouds’ and ‘bow’ are strong, absorbing mid-paced crowd-pleasers.
48:13 is the album that finally marks Kasabian out as a band that know where they want to go. It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step in the right direction.