Kasabian, fresh off their most critically acclaimed album, returning to their electro roots with an explosive, trance-inspired mash of summer anthems. It can’t go wrong, can it? Well, they could become painfully self-reflexive and like, name the album after the length of the album or something (Serge Pizzorno is an ‘artiste’ now, which means he’s somewhat up his own arse). And they could try and make their usually terrible lyrics at once sexualised and politicised, creating some weird, disjointed mix of party antics and anti-system vitriol delivered with typical Leicester-accented panache. And they could go for more of a brainless hammering of vaguely ellectronic noises rather then the intricately layered atmospherics of their stupendous debut. Oh, they’ve done all of those things? Well, there’s always the instrumentals.
That sentiment isn’t just grasping for positives; no, the moments on 48:13 worth remembering are almost exclusively the ones where Tom Meighen and co. shut up and calm down. The opening of the album sets the tone for much of what is to come. A nice, surprisingly melodic instrumental opener that sounds like a genuine development of the slightly Eastern prog rock sound of Velociraptor; and then, suddenly, a rollicking explosion of a track punctuated by eardrum popping bursts of sound and grating bellows. That would be bumblebee, one of the lead singles off 48:13 and the song that definitively killed off my hopes for the album. Early release EEZ-EH had been horrible in just about every way, but I nonetheless held out hope that it was just a one off to pull in the masses. Instead it was merely setting the stage.
Similarly, the one-two punch of shiva and bumblebee’s contrasting subtlety and abrasiveness is a trick that’s repeated throughout the album. mortis sets up the furiously-paced doomsday with some gentle, almost lulling strings that offer brief respite from the clamour and chaos of everything else. These interludes are like the moments when a club becomes all too much and you need to step out for some air – an event it should be noted happens most often on crap nights. 48:13 is a bit like one of those nights, so in that sense I guess it suceeds in bringing the spirit of 90s House and Techno to the modern day. I don’t like House nights.
I’m sure Serge was proud of his whole 48:13 thing, but it also tells you another crucial failing of the album: too damn long. Kasabian albums have always been tightly constructed pieces of work, punchy and dense in quality – save the token slower, more terrible song or two -, but 48:13 feels like a slog. It’s not helped by all the songs sort of sounding the same and the total lack of dynamism or contrast within them – perhaps one reason why the more varied and stylistically inventive interludes appeal. There are moments like a breakdown on glass that hark back to classic, simpler grooves like LSF where it was just some bass, some rolling drums and carefully layered synths. And then 48:13 throws in a rap about political revolution and how evil the suits are. It’s a bit random.
The atonality and atmosphere of explodes channels more psychedelic influences, with maybe a bit of Chemical Brothers thrown in, and seems to promise a mid-album turnaround – particularly when it climaxes in thunderous bass and some decidedly cinematic synths – but then Eez-eh shows up two tracks later and ruins it all. If they had stripped back everything like explodes and glass, with the interludes thrown in too, I would have loved this album. I can tell. There are moments when it all clicks and I know I want this music from them; but then it’s gone.
Musically then not as if the album is that bad, but the atmosphere and general vibe is just so off-putting. I can appreciate the rolling basslines and criss-crossing wails of treat, but something about it just offends me. It’s just dirty. It’s scummy. It’s cheap. The whole album is. Everything about it is nasty and trashy – especially the lyrics. Kasabian are known for having almost universally crap lyrics (their first album had this whole thing about faucets that baffles me to this day) but they’ve always been bad in an ambitious, sky-scraping way, like prog-rock or psychedelia. 48:13 is raunchy and messy, embedded in the laddish-ness that I’ve always defended Kasabian against, and then throwing that against more classicly cliched fare(see album closer s.p.s.) to create a jarring mix.
Tom Meighan’s vocals against this backdrop grate more than they ever have, too. Even on their more fantastical tracks like cloud, which would be quite fun, in a weirdly Liars meets Manics way, were it not for how jarringly out of place Meighan’s vocals are.
I’m not just sad about Kasabian releasing their first album I didn’t enjoy, I’m sad about the manner of it. I didn’t just not like the album, I didn’t like everything it stood for, I didn’t like the people behind it, and, yeah, I didn’t like a lot of the songs. I couldn’t say I ‘hated’ it, by virtue of liking a few cuts and some choice moments off lesser ones, but not much more.