KASABIAN – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum (Columbia)

I have to admit from the start that as much as I loved Kasabian’s first album, I have not really been that impressed by much that they have done since. ‘Empire’ was OK, but there was nothing on there to rival ‘Club Foot’, ‘LSF’ or ‘Reason Is Treason’ from that debut, and so this one would have its work cut out to win me over. ‘Underdog’ is a good start, with its rumbling bass intro, spikey guitar, the bit where the sound drops out only for the band to burst back in, and the general excellence of the tune and its execution. ‘Where Did All The Love Go?’ is quite ordinary by comparison, although it too has a catchy chorus, and the strings at the end give it a Middle Eastern feel. ‘Swarfiga’ is a nice little Krautrock influenced instrumental, with a motoric beat powering it along so that the guitar can repeat the same phrase over and over. This is actually the sort of thing that I prefer, but I know that it is just a diversion for the band, and so next up is ‘Fast Fuse’ – a bass driven rocker which, even though it was released as a fan-club only single nearly two years ago, still sounds remarkably fresh, and the riff driving it along is one of their best yet. Producer Dan The Automater makes his presence most felt on Serge’s ‘Take Aim’, which does sound a bit like Blur to me, with its funky bass-line and lack of crunching guitars that have swamped all the other songs so far. Rather oddly, this quieter track is followed by two more – the Kinksian singalong of ‘Thick As Thieves’ and the rather lightweight ‘West Ryder/Silver Bullet’, which is held together almost solely by a repetitive bass riff. When ‘Vlad The Impaler’ bursts in it is a welcome relief, as having those three tracks segued together severely diminishes the impact that the band had built up with the first few songs. ‘Vlad…’ is a fairly atypical Kasabian song, with the dance beats, fuzz bass and riffing guitar all present and correct, and although it was hailed as a success when it was released as a single it sounds rather tame following songs like ‘Underdog’ and ‘Fast Fuse’. The twangy guitar and melodic vocal line of ‘Ladies And Gentlemen (Roll The Dice)’ help to make it a really good song – but just not a really good Kasabian song. Where is the bite, the energy, the dance beats, the guitar solo? This song really could be by any pop group of the last thirty years, and I expect more from a cutting edge indie rock band. ‘Secret Alphabets’ picks things up a bit, but it is still too mainstream to be classed as a Kasabian classic, and for once the orchestral backing was not really needed. ‘Fire’ does its best to make amends, with a deceptively languid verse leading into an upbeat chorus, and ‘Happiness’ is another of Serge’s orchestral ballads – all gospel choirs and lush strings. Summing up, then, I liked about half of this album – mostly the faster songs, and one or two of the ballads – but that is not enough to warrant the rave reviews that it has been receiving. If you preferred ‘Empire’ to the debut then you will probably appreciate this more than someone who saw a potential in that first album that does not seem to have been realised in any of their subsequent work.