Kasabian – Switchblade Smiles review
Just a shade over two years since their last release, Kasabian are back with album number four.
The album definitely tries to achieve this feat, but perhaps it tries a little too hard. There’s certainly good variety present, perhaps finally shedding the Leicester bands previous “lad-rock” tag (in terms of their music at least). But it does seem to be done in a somewhat constrained way, and it feels like Kasabian are not entirely sure of their musical identity.
The release is not without its moments though, and the most interesting, and arguably innovative, track is the excellent Acid Turkish Baths, with “acid” being the optimum word. It’s a trippy, psychedelic effort that fuses Middle Eastern influenced strings, gongs and heavy, pounding synths with the occasional breakout of a concordant melody. It sounds like it’s been written in an underground bunker amidst the bustle of a packed out Iranian opium den.
Another track with similarly far-out credentials is the thrilling Switchblade Smiles. It combines 8-bit rave aspirations with a meaty guitar riff, anguished yelps from vocalist Tom Meighan and plenty of unpredictable twists and turns, changes of direction and varying dynamics.
The title track manages to combine the Kasabian swagger of old with their more developed current sound, resulting in a funky, yet raucous sound infused with powerful vocals and blazing synths – a definite festival and indie club sing-along of the future.
These tracks show what Kasabian are capable of, but there are also several occasions when they find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
Re-wired is an up tempo track that has dirty, industrial aspirations, while I Hear Voices adopts a distinct synthpop style. Both feel like they’re trying to incorporate new sounds into their more familiar style, but they unfortunately comes across as a bit of a mishmash.
There’s also a few songs that are more ballady, stripped down and serene – most notably Man of Simple Pleasures and Goodbye Kiss. These tracks really fail to offer very much at all and come across as the type of fairly forgettable pop-rock that clogs the Radio 2 airwaves.
Kasabian in 2011 have certainly improved since their debut, and there is definitely a bit more substance and meat on the bone than there was in the early days. They are perhaps trying to push the envelope, while continuing to be commercially successful, and some tracks on this album suggest they are capable of achieving this. They are not quite there yet, but it’s simply a case of finding the right balance and not being afraid to transition further away from their tried and tested sound of old.