CD Review of West Ryder Pauper
Lunatic Asylum by Kasabian
Kasabian: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Recommended if you like
Blur, The Coral, Small Faces
Label
RCA Records
Kasabian:
West Ryder Pauper
Lunatic Asylum

Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez

S
emi-famous in their native UK, Kasabian are best known in the States for their 2004 single "Club Foot." The song featured a pulsating bass guitar and vocal hook that brought to mind the dancefloor groove of the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses circa 1991. Their first two albums, Kasabian (2004) and Empire (2006), didn’t stray far from that single’s formula with the band marrying "Madchester"-styled hooks with the classic melodic sensibilities of bands like the Kinks and the Small Faces. Though both collections fell short of their promise, they boasted enough winning moments to keep you believing that Kasabian were just a few years away from making a truly great album.

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Kasabian’s latest full-length effort, finds the band at their most adventurous and experimental. The material here brings to mind the wide-eyed sonic explorations of later period Blur. WRPLA probably wasn’t created with Kasabian’s live show in mind, instead using the freedom of the recording studio to try out whatever wild ideas the songs inspired. Showing off a veteran-level comfort in their playing, the Brits bring all the elements together effortlessly. Whether it’s a gospel choir or an orchestra backing them, the band makes it sound seamless and anything but forced.

Much like the aforementioned Small Faces on their album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, Kasabian have woven together an album with cinematic ambition, reach and feel. The trick is making the entire thing flow and not come off like a series of standalone singles. Like the great albums that came out on the Harvest label in the early ‘70s, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum should be taken in as one piece. The swirling psychedelia of "Take Aim" is worlds apart from the Merseybeat bounce of "Thick as Thieves," but listened to in the same context, it makes complete sense.

Guitarist and songwriter Sergio Pizzorno has described the album as "the soundtrack to an imaginary movie," and we can’t think of a better way to sum up what they’ve put together here. Dan the Automator (Kool Keith, Gorillaz), a man with little regard for musical genre expectations himself, produced WRPLA and his rebel recording tactics are exactly what these songs called for. The Ennio Morricone-influenced bombast of "West Ryder Silver Bullet" (which features a vocal cameo from actress Rosario Dawson) or the chaotic rumble of "Vlad the Impaler" could have sounded like huge missteps in the hands of a lesser producer, but Dan pulls the reigns in at all the right moments.

Staying in the spirit of the era that helped inform the album, Kasabian and Dan the Automator seem to have created it with headphones in mind. Cranking it out of your stereo's speakers works well, but the intimacy and clarity of headphones makes for a completely different experience. Nothing on WRPLA is as immediately accessible as "Club Foot," but repeated listens reveal countless hidden melodic gems and other subtle nuances that prove to be all the more interesting in the end. We have a feeling we’ve only begun to nip at all of what this album has to offer.

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