Listening to Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno describe the inner workings of their fifth studio album in an NME interview recently was utterly mesmerising. Granted, Serge might be from another planet, and Tom could do with a few workshops on expressing himself, but the passion is there in the words they use. Tom repeats the word exciting more times than a hummingbird flaps its wings and Serge runs out of superlatives for his bandmate’s vocals.
You can tell that the band truly believe this is the one. The album that defines Kasabian. The record oozes simplicity in a blend of their old and new sounds. Almost in a nod to their early work, 48:13 has more of an electronic element than, say, Velociraptor!, but keeps the integrity of their rock and roll routes. Routes, which, as is the same with a plethora of British rock bands (and the rest), stem from The Beatles. This is particularly noticable in ‘stevie’ and ‘(mortis)‘ with the boys’ melodic tones comparable to that of John and Paul. The opening track, ‘(shiva)’, echoes the resonance of Dire Straits or Pink Floyd. And glimpses of the band’s admiration for The Clash and The Doors is evident.
Yet ‘glass’ hits us at full pelt from a completely different angle halfway through the album. Forget rock and roll heavyweights, and start thinking hip-hop. A grimey, spoken word rap from Suli Breaks, the man who gave his two cents about education a while back, is included on this track, which surprised me but is somehow in keeping with the feel of the album.
I would call this album a concept album; the clash of genres and simplicity being key. Meighan and Pizzorno believe that “less is more” with this album and I can certainly see why: simple album name, simple album cover, simple messages. Even the video to ‘eez-eh’ is delightfully uncomplicated. It is this “stripped back” sound which gives 48:13 its iconic feel, which was a careful and succesful consideration by the band.
Whether the band also decided to release the album to coincide with Soccer Aid to remind us of Serge’s spectacular lob in the event two years ago or not, it is the eccentric singer-songwriter’s musical talent, not sporting, that is salient. The second single (and song) on the album, ‘bumblebee’, was apparently cooked up in the ‘Sergery’ and played to Tom well over a year ago. It is, in my opinion, the perfect festival song.
Imagine: the fluttering of speech from thousands of people around you as you await the headliner act, which this year is Kasabian. You can barely see in the dark but, suddenly, shiva comes rumbling through the speakers for its minute-or-so-duration and then out of nowhere, bumblebee crashes into your eardrums, propelling everyone into a chorus of collective chanting. Ecstasy.
48:13 is a great album. But we never really expected anything less of a band that only produces great albums did we? Kasabian’s strengths can also be their shortcomings though. The pure quality of their music leaves them in danger of producing very similar successive albums. They have counteracted this wisely but in creating such a bare bones album, it remains to be seen whether the substance and integrity of their music remains in tact. The lyrics pale in comparison to the enigmatic West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum for instance.
However, the explosive nature of the band has not been lost, and instead fits seemlessly into an impressive experimental record. The introduction of previously unused elements ensures 48:13 has a unique sound without straying too far from what we know. It might not be their best album in terms of quality of songs but it certainly is their most innovative work yet.