Kasabian ‘48.13’ – review

17 Jun

Kasabian headline Glastonbury next week and it’s been a long time coming. When they allegedly turned down a low slot 2 years ago it was because they were waiting to be invited to top the bill. When ‘Fire’ went top 5, and confirmed that the band had staying power, they had one eye on Glastonbury. When their debut tried to bridge the gap between acid heads, smack heads and pot heads, they had one eye on Glastonbury. When they stood on a stage at The Charlotte as an unsigned Oasis Covers band and performed to three people, they had one eye on Glastonbury. New album ’48.13’ is a means to an end – that end being the pyramid stage next Friday night.

They could have phoned this album and nobody would have blamed them. Put out an album with 12 ‘Fire’s’ and the jobs a goodun. But that is decidedly what they haven’t done. Few albums that have been labelled ‘lad rock’ are as utterly weird, eclectic and thoughtful as ’48.13’. Sure, It’s a bit cringey when they hire some cockney cliché to do a rap (which features the delicious line ‘The biggest criminal I ever met wore a suit’) and ‘Ezee eh’ is absolutely ridiculous – but they know it. They flaunt it. They embrace and ultimately exploit that silliness whilst never using it as something to hide behind. This is an album that has a lot of heart and soul beneath the silly exterior.

It’s not the album I thought they’d make. With Arctic Monkeys about to quieten down, and Glasto on the horizon, I assumed they’d go for an ‘AM’ style assault on the charts and play to the lack of rock music out there at the moment. In fact ’48.13’ is the most left-field, experimental record the band have yet put out. Only on the storming album opener ‘Bumblebee’ do the band really exploit their riff-rock heritage. That song is a deafening, crushing and actually quite awful beast but it isn’t the norm. The album has more in common with rave than it does rock, and at times it sounds more like ‘Yeezus’ than ‘Morning Glory.’

‘Eez eh’ is one of those songs where you do a double take the first time you hear it. It’s so out there, so brazen, so cheesy… but by about the fourth listen I was totally hooked. The song is so self-consciously, transparently, cynically crafted for a festival that it almost beggars belief – but the festival it has in mind is Creamfields rather than Reading. ‘Eze eh’ is almost as blatant as the lighters aloft closer ‘S.P.S’ which has clearly been written for the end of a gig but is far too self-conscious to work as a real anthem. It’s difficult to find a balance between irony and sincerity, silliness and seriousness, and here, and at other points, Kasabian don’t get it right – and it’s always when they’re trying too hard. The euphoric ‘treat’ is a lot less desperate for an audience’s attention but is all the more likely to be a live stand out because of that.

I’ve always felt Kasabian had it in them to write this generation’s ‘drugs don’t work’ or ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘end of the century.’ On that front they’re still letting me down. Whilst their rock tracks still rock excessively, their ballads are very subtle, quiet and nonchalant. In other words not at all what you want from a band like Kasabian. Those are the type of songs that truly transcend genres and audiences and bring people together – particularly at festivals and I feel a little let down that they don’t even attempt to write a real ballad on ’48.13’. But I suppose that’s the thing about this band. Kasabian don’t want to be pigeon holed and they aren’t particularly bothered by what you expect them to do, or even what you would like them to do. Kasabian don’t want to be that type of band. They don’t want to be ANY type of band. However ridiculous it may seem to outsiders, Kasabian see themselves as Rock music’s Kanye West; constantly shifting and defying expectations.

For all its faults ’48.13’ is an album that attempts new things and does so with good humour and startling confidence. Kasabian sound like a young band excited by the possibilities of rock n roll. The group were initially tagged as the ‘new Oasis’, something that has haunted them throughout their career, but this is Kasabian’s fifth album and let’s not forget that five albums in to their career, Oasis’ creativity was derelict and their ambition stagnant. When Oasis celebrated their ten year anniversary by headlining Glasto in 04 they were ridiculed as being lame dogs, past it in every sense, living off past glories. When Kasabian take to the same stage next week they will be a band in their prime who have truly earnt their reward. Kasabian’s time is now.

6.5/10

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