Judging by the manner in which Leicester four-piece Kasabian have talked-up their sophomore album, ('absolutely f***ing amazing'; 'a classic'; 'rivals Definitely Maybe', according to singer Tom Meighan), Empire is set to be the album of the century. If there's one band on earth who can talk the talk, it's Kasabian. Then again, their vocal bravado hasn't done them any harm thus far; despite 'bypassing critics', according to the press release, their dire, derivative and direction-lessly drab debut sold over 700,000 copies, positioning them as heirs to Oasis's far-reaching, mass-appealing empire. So then, more of the same with installment number two? Not quite. Empire, though it certainly ploughs the same furrow as the debut, all twisted riffs, languid indie drone and surging dance beats, sees Meighan and co. take a more reflective musical stance. In other words, there's marginally less loutish sloganeering, in-your-face power chords and drug-addled, nonsensical lyrics; marginally more intelligent production, controlled confidence and experimentation. The opening title track sees a clever change in tempo mid-song, a barbed interjection amidst a spooky Doctor Who-esque swoosh; Shoot the Runner's beefy glam-rock scuffle pays homage to Bowie with its 'Queen Bitch' refrain, and Stuntman's electro-heavy slur is surprisingly likeable. For the most part, though, Empire fails to ignite; Meighan's 'disaffected' yelp becomes tiresome after a few songs, much of the album is an extension of the debut (the eastern strings on the 'Let Forever Be' swagger of Sun/Rise/Light/Flies, the uninspiring and effects-burdened Seek and Destroy) and it's simply too predictable to be incendiary in any way. At least, though, we're provided with a good laugh on The British Legion, which sees guitarist Pizzorno take over vocal duties. Its acoustic trappings are both misplaced and a bizarre addition to the album's tracklisting; but Pizzorno's forced Bob Dylan impression is certain to ensure him a spot on the next Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes. If Kasabian hadn't attempted to build their Empire by recounting its wonderment prematurely, it might have stood a chance; instead, their audacity just proves them to be, unsurprisingly, more geezer, less Caesar.
Review by Lauren Murphy | 09:00 | Thursday 31st August 2006 | Album Review