Album Reviews

Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

(Columbia) UK release date: 8 June 2009

Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum Never ones to shirk a challenge or a straight opinion, Kasabian have come back fighting with their third album, “the one you’re judged on”, according to guitarist/lynchpin Serge Pizzorno.

Yet while we’ve always known them as confident, ballsy rockers with grooves as strong as concrete, several things have softened for this album, in the process providing a striking riposte to anyone who thought they had the band pigeonholed.

A newfound humility began before the album; doubts set in before it was finished. This proved enough for Pizzorno to visit Dan The Automator in San Francisco. The decision looks to have paid off handsomely.

The familiar loping groove comes out early as Underdog bares its knuckles, but it’s quickly clear, even in this song, that Kasabian can do softer effectively. It’s a blueprint for the album, the band taking a conscious decision to rein in the big drum beats, letting their myriad of influences come through. So while it’s still a big sound, more attention goes to the untempered vocals of Tom Meighan.

Meighan himself seems to be developing nicely as a vocalist, and doesn’t go so heavy on the ladishness here. With more vulnerability on the surface, possibly a result of being pitched back into ordinary life after four years’ straight touring, there is greater depth and emotion in the band’s music. As a result they exhibit more vulnerability here than in the previous two records put together – and it suits them.

Not that they’re wusses you understand. As Fire smoulders in the verse, Meighan makes sure it fully ignites in the chorus, while in the Bollywood flavoured West Ryder Silver Bullet develops a killer chorus of impressive conviction.

Yet there are moments that are, whisper it, quiet. Take Aim is totally stripped back to start with, while the lightly pastoral Thick As Thieves is The Kinks in all but name, ambling amiably into view. “Hey ho, where did we go?” considers Meighan, doing his level best to impersonate Ray Davies. He nearly pulls it off, but doesn’t quite have the elder statesman’s charm.

This, then, is Kasabian the cosmopolitan – and, if Pizzorno is to be believed, marks the band’s definitive personality. They pull it off convincingly, often thrillingly, and even as the lighter singsong Happiness puts out the dying embers of Fire, an inner conviction remains.

It’s the sound of past and future uniting to good effect – and Kasabian’s strongest statement yet that they’re in this for the long haul.

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More on Kasabian
Kasabian – Happenings
Kasabian – The Alchemist’s Euphoria
Kasabian – For Crying Out Loud
Kasabian @ Forum, London
Kasabian – 48:13