Kasabian In the Eye of the Hurricane
Leicester is a strange locale. Like a lot of the cities in the Midlands, the collapse of century old industrial plants following World War 2 led to a long period of social and cultural change. Unemployment was endemic, a massive influx of immigration from the East became a huge social wrinkle, the change from manufacturing to transport hub was difficult and the local football team couldn't win anything. Also, the only Leicester band with any claim to fame were the terrible Cornershop. Then along came Kasabian.
Amid the rise of new Brit-pop acts around 2004 (think Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, The Music and Razorlight), a cocksure group of Oasis disciples from the East Midlands bucked the trend. Their Stone Roses-meets-Oasis-meets-Primal Scream stoner-electro-shoegaze-scuzz-rock was showcased perfectly on their self-titled debut album. In a world full of bland acts, Kasabian were a breath of fresh air.
Picked up by Oasis as both touring partners and apprentices in working the media, Kasabian's subsequent claims of greatness laid the groundwork for their late-2006 masterpiece, 'Empire'. Perfectly melding glam-punk with a ludicrously catchy, baroque-electro-rock, it was a revelation from start to finish. The album, and the huge 'Shoot The Runner' single, also gave them the crossover appeal to sell almost a million copies. In the process, they entered a strange new world of critically-feted underdogs who could play anywhere in the world.
On the eve of their third album, the brilliantly ludicrously titled 'The West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum', Serge Pizzorno is still the quietly-spoken, brusquely-opinionated gentleman he was back in 2004, even if now he’s feeling far more confident in his, and his band’s, abilities.
“It’s weird to be doing all this again, to be honest,” he admits, “but I’m nicely out of the way at the moment. We hired this barn out to rehearse in; we're rehearsing for the tour (a UK-wide stadium tour with Oasis and The Enemy) so I'm just kinda sat out in the kitchen. We've just recently found this place and, it's like a little godsend; it’s like the eye of the hurricane almost. When the album comes out it's gonna get even more insane.”
He’s excited though, surely? “Well I ‘spose it's more exciting just not knowing what the fuck is going to happen,” he chortles. “You have to keep away from looking at the tour manager's fucking diary list to keep your head on straight.”
“I think I'm just really excited because I just don't know what’s gonna happen with this one,” he squints. “People that have heard it have been really excited about it and you think ‘wow’. You just don't know what’s gonna happen with everyone else; that’s the best bit.”
‘Wow’ is definitely one way of describing 'The West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum'. Named for a mental institution in Yorkshire, it opens with the mesmerising 'Underdog', a dazzling doom-laden stoner-disco pastiche, before moving across swirling, banging electro-rawk tunes such as 'Where Did All The Love Go', 'Fast Fuse' and the instrumental 'Swarfiga'.
From there, it all goes a bit strange. As Act Two gets under way with 'Take Aim', Kasabian shift into spaghetti-Western cinematic mode, and 'West Ryder…' begins to feel bigger than simply a collection of songs. Travelling through 'Thick As Thieves', 'West Rider Silver Bullet', 'Vlad The Impaler', 'Ladies And Gentlemen' and 'Secret Alphabets' is akin to moving in and out of movie theatre doors – each tune has a distinctly different theme and feel, yet, somehow, retains a certain Kasabian-ness. 'Fire' and 'Happiness' finish off the closing act with a suitably Happy Mondays-gone-gospel feel, and the world sits uneasily upon its ending.
Obviously, though, this was all intentional. It might throw some people off, but as an album, 'West Ryder…' works incredibly well. As Serge explains, “I think it's sort of a reaction against people just like, downloading one single tune off your album. I just wanted to have an album that was fucken sweet. Sort of like 'Village Green' or 'Dark Side Of The Moon', something that was a whole piece of music that you get this fucken buzz off.
“I think people sort of go ‘Yeah this it the third record, it’s time to get serious; time to write fuckin' radio songs’ and stuff like that. And I'm just like ‘Fuck that man’. I haven't worked this hard to then just go and join in with all the other knobheads out there. This,” he continues, “is the time to go ‘Right, we've done really well, we've really fucking worked hard, so lets give the people something else’. Be the alternative. Take steps to the left, rather than just joining in. That’s what the problem is with mainstream modern bands, that they get a bit, they do well and then they fucken give in. They almost forget why they started a band in the first place and we're just like ‘Fuck it, we gotta have something different’. And if this album bombed it'd be the fucken most beautiful mistake in the world and I think that’s, you know, far more something to be proud of than just like everybody else.