Shoot the Runner
In the rich tradition of UK dance rock bands (Stone Roses, Primal Scream), Kasabian started off strong with their self-titled debut in 2004. Dueling vocalists Tom Meighan and Sergio Pizzorno traded hooks and harmonized with an ease rarely seen since Staley/Cantrell in Alice in Chains. Each song on that album popped because of a solid backbone of minimalist sequenced keyboard lines, chord-y stabs of garage guitar and the vocalists’ catchy mounting melodies. They were driving, fun and often exciting. Instrumental in this well-mixed stew must have been now-departed co-songwriter Chris Karloff’s contributions. Empire, the newest offering from Kasabian feels disjointed, lacking the cohesion of their debut.Early into the recording of Empire Karloff left the group with all parties claiming “creative differences,” leaving guitarist/vocalist Pizzorno as primary songwriter. Some of the strongest moments, openers “Empire” and “Shoot the Runner,” are bass-heavy and reliant on mini-string sections to bring their emotional weight across. Rather than letting the vocals lead the mix, bounding basslines tend to overpower the final result. At least on these songs the singing is as driving as on their first album. For much of the remainder of the album, these qualities Pizzorno is directing lend to a busy overall production.
“Last Trip (In Flight)” connects with some upbeat arrangements, but the singing is buried under too many delay effects. “Me Plus One” drops in a curiously placed string section before abruptly ending early. And perhaps evens more disconcerting, “Apnoea” although short seems unfinished and overwrought.
There are a couple of tracks (“By My Side,” “Seek and Destroy”) where the group’s efforts seem to click. The production is simpler and focused, thus making their strengths all-the-more apparent. But that’s what most frustrating about Empire. There’s a skeleton of more great work that’s buried under over-ambitious production.