Kasabian’s last album, Empire, was something of a disappointment. Sure, it had its moments with songs like -Shoot the Runner, -The Doberman’ and the title-track itself; but for the most part it contained a string of faceless, below-par songs which relied too heavily on synthesizers to prop them up. That didn’t stop the album selling over 900,000 copies, though, and bearing that in mind it would have been very easy for Serge Pizzorno and his pals to repeat the exercise with West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.
Thankfully, they had other ideas. Inspired by the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pizzorno set about to create the soundtrack to an imaginary movie. As he says, ‘we wanted to make an album which takes the listener on a journey.’ Such concept albums have been stumbling blocks for many a band but with Kasabian, under the guidance of producer Dan the Automator, it’s brought cohesiveness to their work. The synths are still there but now their use is more refined – complimenting the overall sound instead of papering over the cracks. Gone too is the dependence on loud, brash sounds to get the point across. Indeed, some of West Ryder’s highpoints lie in quieter moments such as -Thick as Thieves’ and -West Ryder/Silver Bullet’, with the latter track also featuring backing vocals from actress Rosario Dawson (of Sin City and Death Proof fame). Another pleasant surprise is album-closer -Happiness’, where a gospel choir is enlisted to accentuate the feel-good factor.
That’s not to say Kasabian have lost their rock -n’ roll swagger, though. On the contrary, it’s still very much to the fore on tunes like -Underdog’, -Fast Fuse’ and -Fire’. There’s also a newfound psychedelic element to their sound, which is evident on numbers such as -Ladies and Gentlemen (Roll the Dice). The one song that does seem out of place on the album is -Vlad the Impaler’. Its inclusion can easily be forgiven, however, since it’s such an enormously groovy bass-driven romper-stomper.
With West Ryder…, Kasabian have shaken-off any aspersions that they’re one-trick ponies. It’s the work of a band not only displaying maturity and thoughtfulness in their work but who also have the willingness to expand their horizons. And in delivering such a strong body of material, they’ve also succeeded in achieving their main aim: to take the listener on a journey. This is an album that you can listen to in its entirety again and again. The strange thing is you’re left with the feeling that the best is still to come.