The last thing I expected was for Kasabian to mature and develop before their third album. I'd gone off Kasabian recently, with their masculine bravado and Oasis-worshipping, but I decided to listen to West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum anyway, just to see if I could rekindle the fire that burnt when I first heard the empowering swagger of Empire, or the anthemic simplicity of L.S.F., from their eponymous debut.
Underdog, the first track on the album, rekindled the fire instantly. Where most of the British rock bands have swung with the times recently and made electro-inspired albums (see Franz Ferdinand, Maxïmo Park, Marmaduke Duke), Kasabian have kept a gritty guitar sound, not overdosing the synths which have defined them in the past. However, the synths and electronics are still there, hidden in the mix, perfectly integrated. The production is great, managing to get the album sounding rich and clean without smothering the raw edge which makes Kasabian...dare I say, Kasabian.
Kasabian have matured. The lyrics still don't matter too much, more chosen for auditory aesthetic effect than literary quality, but the music has matured: they are experimenting a lot more with new sounds, textures and structure, while still retaining catchiness and dance-worthy beats.
Kasabian seem to have been listening to different music during the making of West Ryder to that they were inspired by during their previous two. Obviously, there are echoes of Beatles/Oasis in everything, but Thick As Thieves has a bit of the Carl-Barât-ballad about it, Secret Alphabets is surprisingly minimalistic, Swarfiga sounds like late The Fall, Fire reminds of 60s-psychedelia, but with a Kylie bassline, and West Ryder Silver Bullet has an 'Age Of The Understatement' Last Shadow Puppets feel to it. And yet all of the tracks work - even the tracks I like least (Take Aim, Happiness and Thick As Thieves) have their good qualities. Kasabian have escaped the shadow of Oasis, and I believe it's further into the sun from here.
Now, anyone got a spare ticket for one of the gigs?