Like Muse, Kasabian shouldn’t be as big as they are.
Granted each album contains the compulsory singalong designed for festival moments, but those are surrounded by vignettes of experimentation.
Kasabian’s debut was electronic psychedelia, the follow-up threw some acid in for good measure. Their highpoint, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum back in 2009, was a bonkers hotch-potch of everything from The Kinks to DJ Shadow. Since then, they’ve successfully trodden a fine line between anthemic and eclectic. For all the comparisons, they’ve always been more Primal Scream than Oasis.
So it should come as no surprise that on chief songwriter Sergio Pizzorno’s first solo offering (well, not exactly first – more of that later) he’s gleefully relinquished the responsibility of writing the bangers and taken the full left turn. With no expected commercial success (although it would undoubtedly be welcomed), experimentation is very much the order of the day.
That said, there’s very little on here that would sound out of place on a Kasabian album. Essentially, Pizzorno has just freed himself of structure, in that it to all intents and purposes is a concept album without a concept. The tent poles of the album at start, middle and end are all marked Meanwhile….
The first (In Genova) has a sense of drama lifted from Ennio Morricone before African bass dominates a gospel vocal drenched scene setter. In contrast, …At The Welcome Break features sad mournful guitars before man of the moment slowthai enters the fray with spoken vocals that sound like they are being whispered through a traffic cone. As a closer, ….In The Silent Nowhere evokes the crispy wind of Nightmares On Wax before strings swell to end proceedings.
Veering more into dance than rock, the album is driven by percussion like a bulldozer riding rough shod. The Wu is propelled by bouncing bass while Lockdown breaks into life with whip-crack drums akin to Blackalicious. It starts slowly and is reminiscent of the work Pizzorno did with Noel Fielding as Loose Tapestries, with strung out vocals over immersive dub beats. The Youngest Gary starts like much-missed The Music before being swamped in fuzzy bass.
As a child of the rave scene, Pizzorno knows the potency of a drop and there’s plenty of moments here; Nobody Else goes full on touch the sky, summer party anthem and similarly ((trance)) has a spine of acid-house piano that sounds thirty years out of date but also never better. Both are life-affirming.
The promotional message has been that it’s wildly different from Kasabian but that’s not strictly true. It’s very easy to imagine Tom Meighan on vocals for The Wu and on the marching doom of Soldiers 00018. The same could be said for the first few minutes of Favourites, which builds and builds until it’s nearly chaotic before Little Simz brings some discipline and grace to proceedings. It’s beautiful alchemy and stands amongst Pizzorno’s best work.
What the album lacks in choruses it makes up for in scope. Continually interesting and surprising, it’s another example of how little credit its creator gets for his willingness to experiment with genre.