A few months back, we brought you the news that Kasabian’s main man Serge dismissed their last album as “sketchy nonsense”. Well after having heard this album, I think that he was wrong to completely dismiss his previous album. Empire has arrived in the UK and by judging the completely overblown reaction of the UK music media to this record, you’d have thought that Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were being cloned and were about to release an album of new songs. Let’s get one thing straight here, Kasabian had one successful album and are a brilliant live act. They have by no means entered into classic territory yet.
As a live act there is a lot to love about Kasabian, the atmosphere of fellow revellers, the fact that they are the missing musical link between Primal Scream and Oasis, the singing and chanting and the fact that experiencing one of their concerts is something that will never be forgotten. They truly are a great rock and roll live band. It is in this arena that their confidence and egos work best, not in the promotion of a record where they compared Empire to the Rolling Stone’s Let it Bleed and Oasis’ Definitely Maybe.
Indeed, this monstrous pomposity that seems to follow them around seeps through to the album at various points, notably in the at times indulgent opening track, ‘Empire’. But this is easily forgiven as the tune is one of the more accessible and the one which is closest musically to their debut album’s songs. The next song came as a surprise to me when I first heard it, a different musical departure for the band. The video for ‘Shoot the Runner’ is easily the best thing associated to this entire record. The track is a glam-rock infused stomp of a song, the video sees the band painted in bright colours and looks like a piece of moving artwork. It is truly sublime, and really does enhance the song. Otherwise, on its own and without the video, the song is at first annoying, but quickly becomes one of those songs that you’ll hum along to as it blurts out of your speakers.
Perhaps the final above average song is the last track of the record, ‘The Doberman’. A roller-coaster of a song, it feels as if the band wrote this with the live performance in mind. However, it is better conceptually than it is in reality, which perhaps can be seen as symptomatic of the problems of Empire as a whole. It feels like these songs will work well performed live, but as they are on the album they are a little under-whelming.
Otherwise, the boys from Leicester have given us a collection of standard dance/rock cross-overs, some forays into psychedelic rock and dance, and some electronic experiments. The feeling after listening to this album is that it is OK. Nothing more, nothing less. It feels as if the band have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. They have the famous fan (Noel Gallagher), the large live following, the successful debut album, the grand choruses and shout-along lyrics, the tag as ‘band of the people’. Yet Empire still doesn’t achieve all that the band wanted to achieve, nor indeed all that they claimed it did.
Perhaps there is a lack of passion, or maybe real conviction, or maybe it is just their ‘difficult’ second album (trademark, all reviewers everywhere). Whatever it is, the album is certainly nowhere near the levels of their first album, yet alone Let it Bleed or Definitely Maybe. One thing that is for sure is that whatever drugs the boys have been taking to make them think like that must have been good.