Make no mistake, Kasabian are probably my favorite band. Since coming to them rather late (just before West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum), I’ve been hooked, frequently retreading the Happy Mondays tinged neo-Britpop of their debut and the glam-rock come psychedelia of Velociraptor. Consequently, I was worried that any attempt I made to review 48:13 would be inextricably linked to my fandom, leaving me blinkered and prone to a critical tunnel vision. Fortunately, Kasabian were kind enough to alleviate this worry, as their fifth album is pretty average – especially compared to the brilliance of their previous efforts.
I’ll start with the two leading tracks, both of which appeared online some time in May. Eez-Eh garnered a surprising amount of criticism from vocal keyboard-warriors in the YouTube comments section. However, I thought it was an excellent opening gambit which sees Meighan and Pizzorno snarling over a giddy Madness-go-to-an-early-2000s-rave instrumentation. Surely it was built to soundtrack the highlights reel to a vintage England display against Costa Rica, which may or may not happen. Meanwhile Bumblebeee, debuted on Jools Holland, sounded like a bit of a mess – like a feral cousin of their fourth album; gratifyingly however, on 48:13 the track is still a bit disorientating, but translated far better than this early live recording.
Whilst the early releases from 48:13 are comfortably solid, the rest of the album doesn’t consistently follow suit. Stevie is a poorer imitation of Where Did All The Love Go?, and whilst it would be a decent tail-end track, you’d be forgiven for expecting better from the album’s third number. Furthermore, the well-intentioned but ultimately misguided rap-verse on Glass is rather dodgy. Whilst Kasabian have never prioritised fine poetics, any lyrical shortcomings that may be present especially stand out here:
It’s like being on a treadmill every day but never losing any weight.
Refreshingly, the closing act of 48:13 is excellent, continuing a trend of strong climaxes to Kasabian’s work. Clouds reminds me of a distorted Sugababes track à la Freak Like Me (this is a compliment), eventually building nicely into a catchy refrain. The stripped-back S.p.s rounds off 48:13; this track teeters on sounding really quite charming. In an album clearly divided into three parts by short instrumentals, I’d argue the last part is the strongest. It’s well worth replaying multiple times.
The problem with tracks such as Stevie is that, whilst they aren’t bad, they just aren’t anywhere near as good as their ancestors. With much of 48:13 being similarly unconvincing, Kasabian’s fifth effort doesn’t hold up against what came before. I don’t begrudge the 4-piece retreading previous ground to some extent in their work, however in the case of 48:13, this act at times seems like complacent aping of prior successes. Having said that, I’m sure these weak links will fit smoothly into the sonic-barrage of their live performances.