Kasabian talk a bloody brilliant game. In an era of softly-spoken, shy ‘n’ retiring sorts the band’s swaggering, tell-it-like-it-is stance guarantees press inches, becoming one of the few polarising groups in an era defined by unanimity.
Sadly, the band’s words have increasingly become detached from their own output, to the extent where it can often seem as though they’re discussing an entirely different album from the one they actually release. A few weeks back, Serge Pizzorno claimed that the group’s next release would “save guitar music from the abyss” – the reality, however, is somewhat different.
New album ‘For Crying Out Loud’ doesn’t function like a guitar album. In fact, the weakest moments on the record are the tracks where Kasabian play to rote, where they simply churn out guitar clichés – the over-produced ‘Wasted’ or the limp strum-along of closing cut ‘Put Your Life On It’, for example.
It’s a record that doesn’t feel fresh, not least by the band’s own standards. Now six albums deep, Kasabian’s career is something that everyone has an opinion on, but there is also the nagging sense that the debate has been had, that the lines have been drawn long ago and are beginning to fade like road markings after a heavy storm.
Opening cut ‘Ill Ray (The King)’ feels clumsy, Tom Meighan’s words stumbling over one another as he does his best Edmund Hillary impression: “The higher the mountain the higher I climb…” The rousing chorus is tailor-made for those epic arena shows, but we’ve been here before – Kasabian themselves have multiple tracks like this in their arsenal, and it’s barely testing band or audience.
The album’s best moments are often fleeting. In his now notorious Q interview Serge claimed that listening to ESG and Talking Heads had sparked a renewed interest in the possibilities the guitar can offer, moving away from the distorted electronics of 2014’s ’48:13’.
‘Twentyfourseven’ opens with crunching, overdriven guitar chords, but these spasms soar past genre tropes to create a truly disgusting noise. ‘All Through The Night’ is a genuinely affecting piece of psych-folk, the simple arpeggios conjuring a Medieval air amid Tom Meighan’s paranoid lyricism.
Perhaps the defining moment on ‘For Crying Out Loud’ is the eight minute long cut ‘Are You Looking For Action?’. Musically, it lingers on the darker side of disco, and – for once – the claims of ESG and Talking Heads influencing the recording process begin to make sense. But it can’t last. Overlong and devoid of any fresh ideas, the lyrics – “Give up or get back into the sunlight” – feel enormously tired, while ironically these supposed saviours of guitar music become increasingly reliant on slick synths and a by-rote saxophone solo to raise the temperature a little.
In critical terms, the knives have been drawn for Kasabian since Day One. ‘For Crying Out Loud’ certainly won’t placate the doubters, who have never been enamoured with their charms. For fans, though, there’s little here to truly recommend – it seems to fall between two stools, not supplying enough arena-filling arrogance while never truly indulging the more surprising elements of their record collections.
It’s a record that will hardly spell the end of Kasabian, but ultimately feels like a failure.
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