Kasabian: Empire

Although the material here won't get you hooked like "Club Foot", Kasabian are back with a vengeance. That is, a spacey, hippie-tinged, and occasionally horn-laced vengeance.



Label: RCA
US Release Date: 2006-09-19
UK Release Date: 2006-08-28

When they first came on the scene last year in North America, there were very few new live acts that could hold Kasabian's jock. The group's sensory overload of lights, sounds, and colors made for a trip even the most sober concert goer couldn't get enough of. The British (and a lot of North American) press have compared them favorably to Primal Scream, another group who put on one hell of a show. But as it is with every sophomore album, particularly of a band who released a strong debut, it's almost like opening a Pandora's Box. You're eager to see what's inside, but fearful that the contents might not live up to expectations. The band, led by Sergio Pizzorno, certainly tries not to disappoint. And, for the most part, they don't.

Although the thick slabs of guitar are found later on, Kasabian teases the listener with a rather odd but effective title track. Think of a very lean Scream-like number influenced by the Killers who just listened to Slade and you get the picture. At least I hope so. It's not the strongest song here, not by a long shot, but it gets the job done. And halfway through, they just screw with your mind, resorting to a brief collage of sounds Syd Barrett might have imagined during acid trip #2,137. It's a very good start, but "Shoot the Runner" seems to stumble from this arse-kicking start. Here, the band goes for a lean groove that could have come from Tommy James & the Shondelles. The vocals sound like they've been spliced in before they speak about a Queen Bitch and up the oomph ante somewhat. It might be spiced up live, but it loses something on disc.

Nonetheless, what doesn't stick to Kasabian's wall is often the exception to decent, well-crafted numbers. Such is the case with the tight, polished and near-perfect "Last Trip (in Flight)", which sounds like a distant cousin of Primal Scream's "Shoot Speed Kill Light". And they are able to take this tune to the next level without it sounding forced or falling off the sonic rails. The group also seems to take a lighter rock approach with some tunes, especially the infectious, poppy "Me Plus One", which you would think would blow you away with some large, bombastic guitar solo by Pizzorno. Instead, it is content to be on some sort of cruise control, despite some subtle licks by the guitarist.

Fortunately, they get back to basics with "Sun Rise Light Flies" (did I mention "Shoot Speed Kill Light"? Oh I did.). Here, the group sounds like they've returned to the formula that worked so well with "L.S.F.", but have changed a few gears here and there, particularly in the tempo. Some strings are thrown into the mix, along with some airy vocals in the chorus. It's this experimentation that sometimes throws the whole album a bit out of whack. "Apnoea" is perhaps the first track that sounds like it could have fit perfectly on album number one. It has all the spark, bite, and verve that oozed out of their debut, and sounds like it's sure to be another crowd pleaser, even with its overt production values.

Of the dozen songs here, perhaps the one that shows just where the band might be heading in the future is "Stuntman", which starts off with a hard and fast dance beat and then adds keys and a fantastic rhythm section to it that sounds ready for some E-laced rave. The album hits a huge pothole with the back to back padding that is "Seek & Destroy" and the sappy, soppy, and sloppy acoustic ballad "British Legion", which sounds like it was recorded after one too many nights in such an establishment. It also could be dubbed the "first encore song", as it has that slow, relaxing feel that doesn't require much exertion or energy.

By now Kasabian has given you more good songs than bad songs, and wrap the record up with "The Doberman", that slowly but quite nicely develops some bite. It builds and builds with a retro-tinged hippie feel pulling it along. On the whole, it's a good second step, but hopefully step three is more in line with the shock and awe the first album contained.





By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.


Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.


L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.


Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.


Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.


Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.


West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".


PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".


Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.


Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.