Kasabian – 48:13 Review

Kasabian are back with yet another hotly anticipated album, this time their fifth with 48:13. A decade on from their debut; this album looks to be a stripped back and hard hitting affair with Serge Pizzorno talking of how they’ve stripped layers back rather than add things on. Amongst other things I can imagine this more streamlined sound accentuating Tom’s provocative and in your face vocals. This should also signal another change of direction from the Leicester band who are not known for hanging around with a sound for a few albums. This has generally worked well for them and they’ve maintain a lot of their commercial success in the process, yet it is never a guarantee of a solid album  and given their experience and reputation, this album will probably be their most painstakingly analysed yet.

The first track to emerge from the album was ‘Eez-eh’ It features a reverberating trance beat, expanded percussion and an undulating, vibrated bass line. On top of this is a slightly wacky and eccentric style that’s born out of the songs structure and progression. Musically it’s a different route for them and it’s catchy and rapid. The vocals though, really seem out of kilter with the whole song and are poorly produced when you consider the music behind it. It sort of detaches the song from itself. Some of the lyrics are pretty humorous and a little witty too. The main identifiable difference is how there is no real musical flow but more of a beat laden chant about it. It’s such a change that people’s automatic reaction is to criticize, but it should be given a chance, though you’d expect much stronger and better delivered singles from them despite the undeniable punch it packs. ‘Bumblebeee’ explodes into motion with crashing percussion, grating guitars and vocal chants and sinister shouts that reverb through the colliding sounds. Tom’s vocals are heavily distorted as a fires out the lyrics of the chorus. The song all so easily falls into a neat and more gradual progression and feel of the verses with the nudging synths and sharp percussion along with the clean vocal sound. The build up of sound back towards the chaotic chorus is something that can almost never fail, but they’ve done well to maintain a vague connection between the structure of the verse and chorus. It’s just that the chorus is positively mental in comparison. The transitions are what make this song and they’ve released their importance and emphasised them to great effect.

‘Glass’ sees Serge take the lead with the vocals and the feel of the track is much more expansive and growing than the direct hits of the previous two tracks. Grinding electronic pulses open the track before giving way to echoed, wiry guitars and washed out synths and echo. Serge’s vocals continue to expand the sound, recorded in a distant and airy fashion. The verses evoke images of medieval rhymes and ballads in a chilling and detached state. These are backed by march-like drums along occasional flurries of acute synth blasts that become a pulverized infusion. The lyrics are delivered in an environment befitting them. Talking of how we don’t fight things we don’t agree with and ‘going nowhere fast’ as a result. The spoken word at the end focuses upon this and the instrumentals rotate out to a conclusion, leaving the words in isolation. ‘Glass’ is a track with real potency that is matched by it’s thought provoking lyrics. ‘Clouds’ slowly comes to life via phonically and sonically charged synths that turn into grinding oscillations before beginning a more guitar driven remainder of the song with a rumbling rhythm section and fuzzy sounding bass line. The songs leads up to pronounced guitars solos, flanked by flashing and rotating synths. Tom and Serge’s vocals in unison have a slight echo on them and they usher in the electronically charged bursts of power and sound that kick the song on to it’s conclusion. An unsymmetrical structure and layout that they utilise to keep the song fresh and intriguing throughout. Dramatic and anthemic strings and brass are used to open ‘Stevie’ before launching into a heavily distorted and reverberating guitar and these come together in the chorus. They master the more built up instrumental moments just as well as the barer situations and the transitions between them but this song is designed more for a never ending sea of people to sing back at them more than anything else and it works exceptionally well in that sense. ‘Bow’ features Serge again and the undulating spring of the riff leading the song in creates the atmosphere for the hit in the chorus as he explores his vocal limits across shimming electronica. ‘Explodes’ begins with more electronic purity and features harpsichord like synths, brief EDM like bursts and drum samples and siren-like moog synths. Unlike the last album; 48:13 maintains it’s flow and urgency throughout. Each track is delivered faithfully to what they set out to do and for the most part it worked to maximum effect thanks to immaculate production on pretty much every track apart from ‘Eez-eh’; but that’s experimentation for you. With that in mind, you can only appreciate that they’re trying new things and not sitting in the musical comfort zone and I think this album is more of a natural step forward from their self titled debut and certainly one of their best.

Kasabian – 48: 13 = 8.5/10

Image from www.gigwise.com