Like their similarly immodest contemporaries Razorlight, Kasabian talk a good fight - or enough of a good fight, anyway, to make you overlook the shortfall in achievement, when compared with their boundless ambition. In recent weeks the band's singer Tom Meighan and guitarist Serge Pizzorno have been bigging themselves up aplenty in the pop press, making outlandish claims for Empire while offering entertaining sideswipes at their rivals, as if in denigrating them, they might also raise their own reputation by comparison.
But listening to Empire without the blinkers of vested interest, it's hard to tell whether this is the great breakthrough they maintain, or just the last hurrah of Brit Pop as the spotlight shifts elsewhere. Admittedly, it's an improvement on their patchy debut, the band's sound honed by hundreds of performances; but it all seems to be looking back, rather than forward, with the group apparently transfixed by their influences and idols. Instead of chummying up to Liam and Noel, perhaps they ought to consider whether Oasis had actually made any records worth hearing in nearly a decade, and address their own efforts accordingly.
Which is not to say that Empire is actually a bad album. There's an enjoyable swagger to the galumphing boogie-monster of a title-track, while the lolloping handclap groove of "Shoot The Runner" sounds like Primal Scream doing a T Rex cover. Indeed, as one delves further into the album, the more it resembles Primal Scream, particularly on the pounding motorik of "Sun/Rise/Light/Flies", with its gently pirouetting Arabic strings and cycling synth lines. Elsewhere, the drug anthem "Last Trip (In Flight)" occupies the niche separating P. Scream from "Silver Machine", while the juddering staccato keyboards, "I Feel Love"-style techno loop and heavy rock drum groove of "Apnoea" recalls The Chemical Brothers in their pomp.
Some variety is introduced late on with "British Legion", an apparently impromptu romantic tribute to some salvatory lover, sung by Pizzorno over his understated solo guitar, and "The Doberman", which concludes the album with a veneer of Morricone-esque brass. But what strikes one immediately after it's finished is how insubstantial the songs are - how little, if anything, is actually being said. It's as if Kasabian have been so obsessed with writing big, anthemic crowd-pleasers, full of endlessly repeated chant-along refrains, that they've neglected to actually write anything apart from the hooks.
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