Imagine going out with a bunch of Pommie footie-fans, bumping into some Krishnas and a cowboy, and trashing a rock club. That is Kasabian’s latest album. Oh, and it was the best night ever!
West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is the Brit rockers’ third album, and rides on the momentum of their last album Empire. It didn’t just ride it, it surfed on it all the way to number one on the UK album charts. The album is inspired by the idea of a party in the titular asylum, which was Britain’s first mental institute for the poor. And, in typically British vocab, prepare to get mental with the bar-brawl that is Underdog, the album’s opening track. After this, you should be expecting the love-child of the Beatles and Kaiser Chiefs, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The album has a lot of variation between songs, changing up tempo and rhythm between each song, and often within a song itself. There are the expected danceable rock numbers, like the punching Vlad the Impaler, but the album is more than just beer-in-your-shoes pub rock. Kasabian bravely experiment with Pink Floyd inspired Secret Alphabets, and throw in a few country-style numbers, with Thick as Thieves making you feel like Clint Eastwood. But the clearest fusion, and arguably the most successful, is the traditional Asian sound that will make you think of the Beatles (post-Asia and acid). This fusion makes the appropriately-titled Fast Fuse a stand-out track on the album. Another track that will stand out is Fire, which should at times remind South African listeners of Goldfish.
There aren’t many points to knock the album on, apart from the occasional song that goes on a bit too long. A case in point is West Ryder Silver Bullet, which is a great song that builds to a great climax, but takes too long to come back down. Another issue that some first-time listeners will have is with the vocals. Backup singer Pizzorno’s voice is a it of an acquired taste for those who aren’t fans of acid-rock’s ethereal harmonies, but Oasis could pull off slightly sub-par vocals, so Kasabian are vindicated in my books.
Another reason I forgive the occasionally average singing is the lyrics. Pizzorno’s lyrics capture the complexity of this band, mixing deep images, occasional black and twisty angst and fun frivolity. This is continued in their music videos, with Vlad the Impaler starring The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding as an out-of-control vampire hunter in a tribute to cheesy horror B-movies. What do you expect from a band named after a getaway driver?
Overall, this is a great album, definitely one worth a whole lot more listening. They are (as you’ve probably noticed) incredibly hard to place into a specific genre, with elements of indie and Brit rock, with dollops of many others. In spite of this complexity, their sound is cohesive thanks to the vocals throughout, but has enough depth and variety to keep you from getting bored and skipping tracks. The experiments with different instruments and styles are great to see, as this points to the band maturing. I can’t wait for their next album, which should be under-way by November this year. Kasabian have borrowed the best parts of quintessential rock bands and have made a hard hitting album you can’t NOT jam to. To quote Vlad: Get loose!