This is it. This is the big one. Kasabian might’ve had a tiny bit of their Glastonbury headliner thunder stolen when the world’s media suddenly went, “Look over there! Metallica!” but the Leicester titans will be the ones showing off new material to the masses on the farm, and it’s a gilt-edged chance to stamp their baggy rock seal on the scene. Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno have talked the talk for years – often, in their unmissable interviews, with hilarious results – but now it’s time to swagger the swagger too.
’48:13′ has a high concept. It’s 48 minutes and 13 seconds long. Actually, Serge’ll be disappointed to hear that the annoying gaps between tracks on record label streams push it over the 49-minute mark, but with any luck you’ll witness the full dazzling effect when you pop the CD in the tray. On the more artistic side, we’re to expect “evolution”, “experimentation” and – according to Tom – a general feel of “less is more”. Less is more? Kasabian? We’ll see about that. Here are our first impressions of the album, out on June 9.
A buzz of static, some tentative trickles of synth, rising and rising into… actually, this is Serge trying to nudge the running time up to 48:13, isn’t it? Classic 70-second intro shenanigans.
‘Bumblebee’ bursts out of ‘Shiva’ with pounding drums and an addictive “yeah yeah yeah (yeah yeah yeah etc)” chant. “I’m in ecstasy,” yells Tom over a loping groove and chunky Led Zep-a-like riffing, and he’s not really on about a natural euphoria. “I fight off robots and the men in the suits,” he adds before Serge sallies forth with a bagpipe guitar solo. This is a churning, muscular gig opener.
“And all the kids they say/Live to fight another day,” is the rallying cry as Tom hoists Serge up onto his shoulders – it’s probably safer the other way around, to be honest – and la revolution lives. Switching from urgent low strings and parping brass to a quick dirty riff, ‘Stevie’ is a bit of a thriller, as Kasabian grasp the nettle and make a mockery of all that talk about a “stripped back” sound.
Adding another 47 seconds to that tally, ‘Mortis’ is a ghostly sliver of desert blues brightened up by a tinkling music box and dreamy murmurs. A breather before the havoc really starts.
Fairground psychosis here, with wobbly Wurlitzer sounds, like early Horrors jolted out of their goth-rock drone. It’s a fidgety skank, afflicted with St Vitus’ dance and a trumpet solo. “The dead will never be alive,” declares Tom, denying the zombie apocalypse with an injection of pure truth.
With a bassline from somewhere east of Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel’s ‘White Lines’, ‘Treat’ is rough, tough motorik funk with muezzin call synths and Tom’s claim: “Everybody knows I work it/Work it like a treat”. It’s hard to argue with that. This is an ‘ave it anthem, with a namecheck for Leicester and the stones to change tack halfway and become a techno-rock epic. It’s got a flavour of Super Furry Animals’ extended ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ mentalism, with perhaps a more prog feel to the spiraling synths. Prog, funk, techno, rawk – might as well, eh?
Pizzorno does Lennon’s spacey ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ drawl on a tripped-out track washed with vwormy (technical term) electronics and, um, ‘phat’ beats. Its narcotised detachment doesn’t hide the political bent though: “When did we stop believing?” asks guest poet Suli Breaks at the end, “You’re taught to remain a hamster on a wheel/Until you run out of energy”. Kicking against the pricks without voting UKIP.
A pummel of beats and pizzicato synths invite us into what sounds like a Russian folk song performed by Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army. And if that was the intention, then hats off. It’s grim in mood, odd and unsettling, a bad trip. “On and on it goes/’Til my head explodes,” Tom intones blankly before the synths go interstellar Bladerunner prog again. Or a bit Flash Gordon. It’s a fine line.
Eighty seconds of Spanish guitar curlicues and a repeated desire to levitate “in the machine”. It’s kind of blissed out. Might contain castanets.
For one note, ‘Clouds’ sounds as if it it’s going to go early Simple Minds on our asses – well, if it’s good enough for The Horrors (again) – then an aggressive throb rises and Tom picks up a loudhailer to describe a jaunt to the shopping centre. Just when you think we’re in a beatless dreamland again, in kick the drums for a piledriving psych-rock chorus, an immediate earworm. Then it’s all wobbly electro bass and angelic vocoder crescendos, like an untranquilised Air.
The single, the legend, the ineffable truth. “Every day is brutal now we’re being watched by Google,” is the refrain on a characteristically bananas Kasabian stomp that splices Madness and rave to leave us scratching our heads and wondering, “Why in Hades did no one think of this before?” Nutty dancing to the top of the charts.
The siren synth riff on this sounds a mite like My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Soon’ for all you noise-devoted ageing shoegazers out there. Then Tom sings, “Are you kidding? This is mental,” and we remember where we are. Actually, ‘Bow’, despite its splashy crashing beats, is glum and regretful. “Nothing lasts forever… It’s all over now!” is the wail before big meaningful statements give way to big meaningful guitars.
A dab of prettiness to close. It’s a comfy, country strum with the sort of cooing harmonies that wouldn’t disgrace a Crosby, Stills & Nash song, as the boys look back on a splendid night: “Didn’t we all have such a good time?/I know there’s time for one more song/Let’s play at paper scissors stone”. Possibly a euphemism there. Alexis Taylor sings about paper scissors stone on his new solo album too, so it’s clearly a thing right now. Nothing else is going to unite Hot Chip and Kasabian, let’s face it.