The third album by England’s Kasabian, West Rider Pauper Lunatic Asylum (RCA Records), is a powerful melange of BritPop, prog, psych, and even some Arctic Monkey’s style dance music, that just might see them make their mark on the United States. They are already one of Britain’s most popular bands. This summer they will be the sub-headliners at Glastonbury, playing just before headliner Bruce Springsteen, for the second time. They will also be touring stadiums in the U.K. with Oasis, including three sold out shows at Wembley Stadium.
Speaking of Oasis, there’s more than a little bit of Liam Gallagher in Kasabian vocalist Tom Meighan. Like Gallagher, Meighan has just the right amount of rock and roll attitude. It oozes from the speakers along with that endearing sneer in his voice. Alright, so the sneer isn’t endearing to everyone, but admit it, you stand with your hands behind your back while singing Oasis songs at karaoke night. My admiration for Oasis notwithstanding, this Kasabian album is, song for song, superior to any Oasis effort of recent years. There may be a lot of different influences at work here, but the whole thing hangs together very well.
Listen to the driving punk and rockabilly-inspired energy of “Fast Fuse,” and then contrast it with the loping, ominous rhythms of the album’s first U.S. single, “Fire.” Elsewhere, anthemic choruses, which will serve the band well at those stadium dates, play off the psychedelic stylings that to my mind are Kasabian’s real strength, the thing that sets them apart. Have you ever heard music that makes you feel high, even when you’re not? That’s the effect that Kasabian can have on you. I suppose you’d call it trippy.
Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett is mentioned as an influence by the band, and that influence is felt at several points on the album. Despite the fact that Kasabian dislikes being lumped in with Madchester bands like the Stone Roses, calling it “lazy journalism,” it’s part of their sound as well.
In the end though, it’s not about your influences, it’s about what you do with them. Kasabian seems to have taken their influences, thrown them all into a blender, and turned it on high. The result is an unmistakably original album that is one of this year’s most interesting.