It’s strange how music appreciation works out sometimes. The Leicester band Kasabian are probably the best-known act on this year’s Mercury shortlist; but I don’t really know their music that well, because it has never really appealed to me in the past. Perhaps this had something to with Tom Meighan’s swaggering vocal style (yet it fits with the music so well), or the unusual way the band construct their songs (I have no idea why that might be, because some of my favourite bands also have unusually-constructed songs, but there it is). Anyway, now I’ve actually listened to a Kasabian album (their third) in full, I’ve changed my mind, and now quite like them. But, paradoxically, I don’t think West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum works all that well as an album. This needs some explanation.
I tend to associate Kasabian with big, anthemic rock songs like ‘Underdog’, the first (and probably best) song on this album. This is what Kasabian do best, and there are a few other songs here in that vein; however, they try to do several other things on the album, not all of which are successful. ‘Fire’ is an interesting variation, that lends more open space to the band’s signature sound. There are quite a few ballads, some of which work well: like the nicely laid-back ‘Ladies and Gentlemen (Roll the Dice)’, or the soulful ‘Happiness’ (sung by guitarist Serge Pizzorno, whose voice suits that kind of song better than Meighan’s). Others, like ‘Thick as Thieves’, or ‘West Ryder Silver Bullet’, never really took off for me.
So, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is quite a mixed bag; but it has made me listen to Kasabian with fresh ears, which I’m glad to have done.
Video: ‘Fire’ (live)
Read my other Mercury Prize 2009 posts here.