Kasabian 48:13 playback session Abbey Road Studios
A very special event took place at the legendary Abbey Road Studios on 1st May: an exclusive playback session of 48:13 (named after the length of the album), the latest offering from Leicester legends Kasabian for the music press and a few lucky contest winners. As we were all ushered into a small, bright pink room it was a far cry from the staid and serious atmosphere I had been expecting. The band's last album Velociraptor was spilling out from the speakers as their new video for first single 'Eez-eh' played on a loop from the screens flanking the tiny stage.
The atmosphere was laid back and informal. After a brief introduction from the band, the album began to play. The instrumental 'Shiva' started things off, calm and haunting, before finally erupting into the chaos that is 'Bumblebee', a powerful song with the might of 'Days Are Forgotten' and the energy of the Prodigy. 'Stevie' begins with a beautiful cello intro before the drums kick in. Melodic, with a big chorus, this is perhaps the most 'Kasabian' of all the songs on the album.
First impression of 48:13 is that it hearkens back to the band's early electronic roots, and the guitars are definitely more in the background than with their previous releases. As with their 2004 debut there are instrumental bridges between songs, such as the lovely 'Mortis', influenced by one of Serge Pizzorno's heroes Ennio Morricone. This was followed by 'Doomsday', another big bold number with a similar vibe to 'Stevie', yet with a more pronounced electro element. The instrumental 'Treat' with its synths weaving their way around drums and Serge's eerie vocals merges into the wonderful 'Glass', hypnotic and dreamy, reminiscent of 'ID' from the first album.
Another highlight is 'Explodes' which is in a similar vein to 'I Hear Voices' from 2011's Velociraptor, with Tom and Serge's close harmonies and sinister synth beats. Those familiar with Pizzorno's work with the G Star Raw campaign may recognise the music, a snippet of which was used in the original advert.
The dark and moody instrumental 'Levitation' merges into 'Clouds'. Perhaps the atmosphere of the famous location was distorting my judgement somewhat, but there seemed to be a distinct Beatles element with this song: big drums, ringing guitars and Meighan's distorted vocals make it a thoroughly engaging number.
Next up was the new single 'Eez-eh' which seemed to divide fans when it first came out. It is definitely a grower, and its infectious beat and kooky lyrics will eventually wrap themselves around you like affectionate tentacles. It certainly got the crowd bouncing that night and was rewarded with a big round of applause at the end.
'Bow' brings the raucous hedonism of the earlier tracks to a close and things begin to slow down a bit. The synths, like strings, float above Pizzorno's seductive vocals, and the effect is mesmerising. Final song 'SPS' is a complete surprise and totally unexpected. Unlike the previous tracks' heavy electronic influence, 'SPS' is more like Velociraptor's 'Neon Noon' or West Ryder's 'Happiness'. With its lovely melody and beautifully evocative vocals from Pizzorno, there is almost an 'Americana' feel about this song, like something Jack White might record.
With 48:13 the band have once again gone against expectation and formula to create a work which may divide some fans still hoping for remakes of 'Club Foot' and 'Empire'. While the distinct Kasabian element is still omnipresent, the direction is completely different from previous albums and perhaps one that some listeners will find difficult to follow. However for those willing to give it a chance 48:13's powerful and enigmatic selection of cleverly constructed songs will prove its own reward. Serge Pizzorno had describe the album as a "journey", and after this first listen it definitely feels like one worth taking.
48:13 is out June 9th on Columbia Records.