Kasabian: 48:13 – Over 15 years after first breaking onto the scene, Kasabian isn’t showing any signs of stopping. The Leicester boys are five studio albums deep into a career that has sold out arenas and won them multiple awards, and yet, somehow, they remain rooted in the subculture set, even as their public appeal has exploded. Maybe that’s why they’re making the assumption that, with their new 48:13 album, their music has come to speak for itself. No cover art, no evocative album title, just a list telling you how long the listen is going to take and the assumption that you’ll find it worthy before you ever even start. It’s a bold move, but they’re at a strange and short-lived place in their career where they’re big enough to be recognizable, but not so big as to have made the complete transition from art to commodity. If there were any time for them to take a chance, it would be now. So does the music stand for itself?
Insofar that is sounds just like you would expect a Kasabian album to sound, yes. It’s high-energy, riddled with bombast and does just enough to show that even the most adoring fans have yet to learn everything there is to know about the band’s sound. The album’s three shortest tracks are music-heavy, lyric-weary orchestral-like interludes that bring together a hi-fi edge and classical components in a creative nod to larger if less noticeable conceptual influences. The album’s other 10 tracks are all technically and masterfully produced pieces that strike that hard-to-find balance between heavy rock percussion and screeching pop-style synth. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, that adroit integration of seriously hi-fi synth pop into a high-energy, hard-hitting rock sound makes the album worth the listen on its own.
The strength in meeting expectations is also the album’s low point, though. It might sound like what you expect from Kasabian, but that means that the band has come to do exactly what you’d expect. Part of what fueled that almost unbelievable growth in notoriety between albums two and four is that, while the integrity of the band’s sound is maintained, they were willing to change up their approach. What 48:13 delivers are the kinds of changes anyone would have predicted from any popular band. There are pawing attempts to branch out to other genres, bringing a deeper but less developed house style to what was once some very carefully distilled electronica.
There are tries at being pithy, too, moments that truly make you want to align yourself with what the band is saying as they bleat out hip-hop infused lines like, “To see success the food for thought you digest has to change/we’re stressed and high, get depressed and die but still afraid to question why”, in ‘Glass’. The want for the poetry is there, and in its own right it’s a solid first attempt at saying something more, but coming in the midst of their fifth album, it sounds just as much like they’re trying to do something to make people think they’re divisive as it does them actually experimenting with finding a new voice.
So is 48:13 everything you’d expect out of a Kasabian album? Yes. Is it everything you’d want, though? For this reviewer, not quite. It’s a well-produced LP with tracks that are memorable and a few singles that certainly won’t hurt that ever-growing popular opinion. It bridges genres and breaks molds, just not their own. At best, it’s an attempt to find a new voice in an established sound, but the once strange, charged, rancorous electronic hybrid seems to be a little less strange and a little more low-key. If nothing else, though, they haven’t lost their penitent for making that static, bedlam-filled noise that they do so well, and that’s certainly something worth listening for…6.8/10