Kasabian were beginning to depress. After a scorching, self-titled debut and a powerhouse follow-up, the suspicions were growing that the band, though clearly speaking for a great deal of the British music-buying public, were on their way to a pigeon hole marked LAD ROCK. The songs bristled with attitude but were beginning to feel contrived, the electricity of songs like Club Foot, Processed Beats and Shoot The Runner replaced by a much more obvious line of musical thinking, despite Serge Pizzorno’s attempts at experimentation.
That said, world domination is well on the way to being achieved. Like their beloved Leicester City, Pizzorno, Tom Meighan and the squad have been reaching for the intercontinental stage when just a few years ago survival in the Premier League would have sufficed. But how to keep themselves there?
The release of For Crying Out Loud arrests many concerns. The band’s sixth album was always likely to be an important junction point in their careers, but here they emphatically take the right turn. The lights go down, the tempo goes up and the music goes back towards first principles. This is music for the feet, keeping the attitude but cutting down on the sneering. Kasabian stride purposefully into the middle of the dancefloor, taking root and putting on a serious show.
Pizzorno has talked about the influence of Berry Gordy on his guitar work and it certainly sounds more intricate this time round, adding rhythmic interest to tracks like the blustery opener Ill Ray (The King), an unbuttoned statement of intent. It sets the tone for the electric disco strut on the album, most obviously glimpsed on the mid tempo tracks but given extra psychedelic twists elsewhere.
You’re In Love With A Psycho has much more than a passing resemblance to Mansun’s Stripper Vicar, but that’s a good thing, surely – especially when Meighan’s vocals harness themselves to the unexpectedly funky shuffle of the song’s undercarriage.
Meighan is a different animal this time around. By his own admission he had a testing 2016, so that while Pizzorno was having the time of his life the lead singer was having to deal with the end of a relationship and living out of other people’s pockets. His approach is humbler and more subtle, and although the laddish exterior is still clearly visible his heart is more obviously on show. This is most evident in the closing track Put Your Life On It, one of those numbers designed to have a huge crowd swaying in its wake but actually containing some deeply personal thoughts from Pizzorno to his wife, that moved Meighan to tears.
There are moments of pure Kasabian – the bruising beat of Come Back Kid, all snare and bass drum, or the swagger of Are You Looking For Action?, which gets its groove on comprehensively, a piece of pure 12” indie disco. Though the level of its success is debatable it is a sign of the band’s greater willingness to experiment, signs of which run through the album. Despite its uptempo outlook Wasted has a vulnerable centre (“wasted without you by my side”), All Through The Night is one of the slowest tracks the band have yet done, topped by a tasteful guitar lick, and Sixteen Blocks represents more radical risk taking. Knowing that Kasabian have made something of a reggae track might cause recoiling in horror, but it’s actually rather well done and topped by a big singalong chorus. If Gorillaz had made it, we’d be lapping it up.
The production has an appealing, gritty sound, the analogue approach adding a layer of dust to Meighan’s voice, Pizzorno’s shredded guitar and the drums, which sound like they’ve been left outside in the sun for a few weeks, more Mojave desert than Leicester suburbia.
Kasabian have been easy targets for the music press over the last few years, with lovers of ‘real’ music more than content to pour scorn on the band’s apparent lack of musical credibility. In truth that says more about their critics than the band themselves. For Crying Out Loud offers plenty of confirmation that Kasabian are in rude musical health.