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It’s a brave move to release your most experimental record to date two weeks out from a headline slot at Glastonbury. You’ve got to admire Kasabian‘s confidence in their latest record, 48:13, but then confidence is a trait Kasabian have never lacked.
Frontman Sergio Pizzorno told The Guardian earlier this year that the album is “a journey, not a collection of singles”. If that was their aim, then they’ve succeeded. The album is most definitely not a collection of singles, and it certainly feels like a journey, though perhaps an overly long one. It’s also mostly devoid of anything to gravitate towards.
It’s an opaque record, unable to reveal itself even after multiple listens. Injections of synths and throbbing electronic beats are liberally distributed, but the throwback rock n roll sound of previous record Velociraptor never sounds too far away, a willingness to experiment coupled with a conservative approach to pushing the envelope.
Tracks like Glass take a synth-heavy approach, but the synths never really take centre stage. At the same time, they prevent the guitars from cutting through and providing the main rhythm, as has been done with such success on older tracks like Fire.
At least that confidence is still there. 48:13 is a record dripping with ego and chauvinism. It spurts over tracks like opener Bumblebee, where Pizzorno chants “I’m in ecstasy”, chest audibly puffed. It appears once again on Doomsday when he sings “We hold our heads high! We hold our heads high!”
Experimental, ‘journey’ albums are often delivered by a band who have ditched their sense of fun in exchange for being a ‘serious band’ but that’s not the case here. 48:13 is, for the most part, infused with energy and the band show they’re not afraid to dance or appease the masses.
The longest song on the album, Treats, is the most successful meshing of the band’s familiar Brit rock sound and their newfound love of electronics. That track’s first section drops us squarely in classic Kasabian territory, while the last three minutes branches out into a disco-inspired instrumental, bringing the material closer to the dance-floor than the mosh pit.
Lead single Eez-Eh is equally full of beans. It’s built-upon laser-synths and a chaotic beat, which stir into an undeniable groove. The lyric “Cause I got the feeling that I’m gonna keep you up all night” is likely to both excite and terrify sweaty festival crowds.
The album often chugs along with a manic anarchy, and the only moments where the record loses its sense of reckless abandon are during lighters-in-the-air cuts like Bow and S.P.S which sound like dull Oasis off-cuts.
As a complete work 48:13 is at least coherent and well-constructed, subtly pushing Kasabian’s sound forward. It’s an interesting trip too, but unfortunately not one that’s likely to be remembered. Without the big moments of their previous records punctuating the album, it would be no surprise if most of these songs are quickly lost among the other giants on their set list.