Kasabian: The Alchemist’s Eurphoria — An experiment in playing it safe

Kasabian release their first album since the departure of Tom Meighan

The Alchemist's Euphoria
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Artist: Kasabian
Genre: Rock
Label: Columbia Records

Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys constituted the last major wave of rock bands to sell out arenas and headline festivals. While Arctic Monkeys sounded razor-sharp and exciting right from the giddy rush of the opening bars of I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, Kasabian were an amalgamation of different strands of anthemic pop-rock, topped off with a very British form of swagger.

Two years ago, when Kasabian’s former frontman Tom Meighan stepped down by mutual consent after a conviction for domestic abuse, it appeared inevitable that the Leicester outfit would grind to a halt. Their principal songwriter, Sergio Lorenzo “Serge” Pizzorno, who was always effectively a second frontman, stepped up to the role.

Pizzorno admits he found the challenge exceedingly daunting and addresses the experience in the lyrics of Chemicals. “It is me telling myself that it is going to be okay,” he says. “It was me seeing myself in those few weeks when everything kicked off. It’s the future me saying to that person: ‘This is shit, but don’t worry, it will get better.’ So having a song about talking to yourself is universal, I think. We all have to find a way to deal with the complications, the mess, and the mortality of life.”

The Alchemist’s Euphoria sees Kasabian abandon the style that forged familiar anthems such as Shoot the Runner or Fire, which revelled in pomp and a mild sense of the ridiculous. The opening numbers are high on melodrama, synthesised strings, and bombast, but with very commercial pop hooks and choruses lurking underneath. Rocket Fuel channels The Prodigy effectively, but brings little else to the party.

This seventh album is a moderately successful experiment that sees them progress past churning out the post-Britpop comfort food fare that made them famous. A syrupy ballad called The Wall is a wobbly misstep. TUE (the ultraview effect) is like a poppy Pink Floyd, while Stargazr attempts proggy electronica with another misspelled title.

Overall, Sergio pulls it off. He is a natural fit for band leader, retaining some of their unique selling points while reining in the band’s lairy and laddish persona. The album is unlikely to convert new flanks of fans to the cause, but it should consolidate their massive fan base as they tentatively dip their toes back in the water with an Olympia appearance in October, which is an intimate club show by their standards.

Chemicals succeeds as a strong comeback single. The Alchemist’s Eurphoria partially succeeds as a comeback album, laying down a marker for their second act. It’s a curious exercise in playing it safe while taking an occasional risk.