Review Summary: The good news: there is hope. The bad news: this isn't the masterpiece the band made it out to be.
"It's just a word we use to describe things that are the best. Y'know, if someone's got a good pair of shoes, they're f****** empire. " - Kasabian.
With the amount of cocky swagger as the notorious Gallagher brothers at their prime, Kasabian have made quite a name for themselves and their boastful inclination. After spending weeks of interviews showering their latest release in various superlatives, the primary question on the minds of both critics and fans alike was can they live up to the self-induced hype? With a debut album that reached 4th on the UK albums chart, it wasn't all too far-fetched of an idea.
Although this album isn't the classic that the band have made it out to be, they do show promising signs of getting to the point of almost being able to back up their own claims of musical brilliance. Lead single "Empire" doesn't waste any time introducing the formula for success that drove their self-titled debut into the hearts of working class Britain, pulling off tempo changes and volatile choruses, all while injecting it with the same confidence that they certainly aren't afraid to express. "By My Side" isn't afraid to whip out the synths, as the song begins with a groggy guitar line and progresses into a techno-rock string-laden solid dance tune. When the final track kicks in at full momentum though, the potential within Kasabian shines, as "The Doberman" ends the album in epic fashion. It gradually builds on country-tinged guitar riffs and dual vocals, before a blazing trumpet and chant accompaniment kicks in, ending the song in ludicrously giant proportions.
Unfortunately, Kasabian fail to capture the raw charisma of the aforementioned songs in the rest of the album and at times their experimental efforts end in disaster. "Apnoea" may just be the worst song of the year. Timing it at a measly 1:46, the techno backdrop, the odd-timed drums, and the over-produced layered vocals come off as annoyingly frantic and overbearing. You could think of this song as like being woken up from a good dream by a bucket of cold water being poured on your head. You've both lost the pleasure of what you just experienced and now you're going to be pissed off and unpleasantly wet for a while. "British Legion" attempts to create a ballad of sorts you'd find on a Jet album, significantly filled with simple acoustic chords and guitarist Serge Pizzorno's poor vocal effort, in what makes Kasabians second career low point, behind "Apnoea". Though the rest of the album doesn't fail as miserably as these two songs, the odd experimentalism of the band make for a different but consistently average mix in music.
"Shoot The Runner" is reminiscent of abstract glam rock, even including a guitar solo amongst the infectious hand clap beat and distorted riff. Electronica dominates "Sun-Rise-Light-Flies", which through a large use of strings and (as NME calls it) "mantra chant" vocals creates a sensation similar to pre-The Masterplan Oasis. Confident and nonchalantly, "Me Plus One" is one of the most temporarily addicting songs on the record, with catchy melodies and solid vocals throughout, though only vaguely memorable once the song is over. If you wanted musical depth, this isn't your song.
There are signs of true radiating potential in the band, seen most evidently in songs like "The Doberman", but then again with songs like "Apnoea" it's truly difficult to judge whether this band is really sure what they are doing. The blend of genre in this album, ranging from the anthemic "Empire", to the modern glam rock "Shoot The Runner", and on to the out of place techno barrage "Apnoea", represent both the good and bad in this record and it won't be hard to identify the band at their most comfortable and at their most awkward. Many of the songs fail to have a lasting impact on the listener, however while they last, they're certainly a satisfying listen. If you've got the time and the urge for something that doesn't take itself as seriously as the band members do, give this record a spin. At least it's fun....most of the time.