The Leicester lads' latest outing is a confused, tentative and occasionally brilliant bout of boundary-pushing
Back in April, Serge Pizzorno and Tom Meighan were spotted in east London in decorators’ overalls, daubing the numbers ’48:13’ onto the wall of their designer’s studio. The men behind such intellectual manifestos as ‘Empire’, ‘Fire’ and all that stuff in ‘LSF’, were making their boldest statement yet. ‘We’ve made an album of slightly above-average length,’ they were saying, and the world sat up. Then came the artwork, a list of 13 time-codes which blew their new ideology wide open. ‘There are 13 songs on it,’ it said, ‘three of which are quite short, probably instrumental interludes.’ Ukip quivered in its bunker, the coalition prepared for collapse, Hard-Fi looked at their ‘No Cover Art’ second album and no doubt considered suing.
The point they were clumsily trying to make was that Kasabian have reached a point where their music speaks for itself, and they’re right. Their original blueprint of rousing ladtronica has expanded into wild, colourful and psych-buggered territories and 2011’s ‘Velociraptor!’ was arguably their most cohesive collection yet – it even had a glitterball ballad twirling at its centre. Having successfully fiddled with a vast range of their sonic possibilities on ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ and ‘Velociraptor!’ and still ascended to arenas and Pyramid Stages, Kasabers have reached the juncture in their career where, with our full trust in their judgement, they can become whatever band they want.
The band they want to become is a Mexicana go-go ambient hip-hop troupe. OK, we’ll take that. But ’48:13’ shifts down such paths with Kasabian’s first ever signs of trepidation, uncertainty even. Those instrumental interludes are significant. The first, ‘(Shiva)’, is a minute of kaleidoscopic throb and twinkle building up to a consolidating Kasabian stomp rock classic, ‘Bumblebee’. We know where we are with mammoth two-chord buzz-rock anthems like this; in a football-based TV advert or beerily hugging our mates at V festival while chanting along to Tom Meighan’s swirling snarl of “When we’re together I’m in ecstasy”. ‘Stevie’ follows, the tale of a psychopath being talked out of a spree by his friends, billowing import from its ominous violas and horns. As an opening, this brace of monsters are powerful and familiar, a reassuring settling-in. Because ’48:13’ is about to venture, somewhat uncomfortably, far out of Kasabian’s comfort zone.
The other two interludes act as bookends to the album’s experimental phase. ‘(Mortis)’ is a morbid sliver of gothic western preparing us for the sudden stylistic swerves ahead – ‘Doomsday’, for example, which resembles The B-52’s playing a surf-pop gig round The Munsters’ gaff, or the Scooby Doo house band. It’s good fun, but then ‘Glass’ arrives, an ambient shuffle featuring Tom droning an airy mantra and a lacklustre semi-rap from 23-year-old street poet Suli Breaks, bleeding into a similarly limp bleepfest called ‘Explodes’. And ‘Treat’, utilising the reedy Farsifa organ sound that cartoon ghosts used to make in the ’60s, is six minutes of trip-rock not dissimilar to Pendulum, and three minutes of OMD disco atmospherics too long – surely ’45:00’ would’ve been a more rounded title, boys?
This mid-section foray into gleaming synth-hop minimalism seems half-hearted, formulaic and only sporadically successful, but the final interlude, the devil’s flamenco of ‘(Levitation)’, jolts the record back into gear. ’48:13’ closes strong: ‘Clouds’ is a stirring electro rampage akin to a 3D print of peak-era Stones – “where do you go, when you’re underneath the rainbow?” – and first single ‘Eez-Eh’ is a Scissor Sisters party tune adorned with Flat Eric whoomps and some of Tom’s most unintentionally hilarious rhymes yet: “Everyone’s on bugle/Now we’re being watched by Google”. While ‘Bow’ is an oddly slick teen-rock anomaly in the vein of Linkin Park and their ilk, the acoustic country ‘SPS’ makes for an assured ending to a confused, tentative and occasionally brilliant bout of boundary-pushing. The cocky confidence that barrelled them into the big time might just be losing momentum – a band made of bold leaps have started dipping toes.