West Ryder Lunatic Pauper Asylum
To understand "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" is to understand the thinking behind it. Admittedly, Serge Pizzorno intends that the album act as a movie soundtrack and such a statement makes sense when considering the spectrum of tracks features so many cinematic bases. Battle scenes, the long kiss goodbye and the dramatic finale are all present. That the film in question is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s bizarre mystic religious flick "Holy Mountain" grants the claim even more credit.
Rudely kicking things off is 'Underdog', a throbbing electro based statement of intent which has already sound-tracked a well known television brand advert. As the track fades to a close, drums kick into life and 'Where Did All The Love Go?' begins; a flowing semi-acoustic mantra until a bizarre, almost Arabian, breakdown. The forthcoming single then bleeds into the effervescent instrumental 'Swarfiga' inviting 'Fast Fuse' to take centre stage from the outset with its powerful opening riff and then rousing backing choir. What follows could easily be deemed garage rock but that would not be paying justice to Tom Meighan’s beckoning vocal performance.
With its gypsy violins, Eastern strings and Pizzorno’s sneering vocals, 'Take Aim' plays out as if Clint Eastwood has just stepped on screen during a cowboy Western. 'Thick as Thieves' acts as a spoiler, mopping up the blood and saving exertion amid drifting acoustic guitar that would not seem out of place in a West End musical. This all seems effortlessly simplistic, despite the overdubs and maximising production values, each song can centre around an straightforward riff or mellow acoustic guitar.
Alas, being presented as the challengers to Oasis’ lad-rock throne overlooks Kasabian’s talent for the sublime, specifically 'West Ryder Silver Bullet'. How Hollywood actress Rosario Dawson became involved indicates the band’s growing popularity across the pond, but boy, how it works. Again, simple, drawn-out acoustic guitar riffs draw you in with Pizzorno imagining Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin when the track was penned. Then you hear Dawson’s seductive vocals, not so much accompany but smother Meighan’s like a rich layer of honey. With Vlad The Impaler as the cheeky taster, you may have already seen the accompanying video featuring Noel Fielding in tiptop Mighty Boosh form. Thanks to the album’s talent for scene sound-tracking, such murderous tomfoolery attunes flawlessly to the emphatic sonic pomposity and somewhat testosterone filled lyrical content. “Listen up all you masqueraders, now we have got the floor” could easily soundtrack a Wallachian performed torture or the odd Saturday night in Wetherspoons. 'Relax, Ladies and Gentleman (Roll The Dice)' hints at more of a passing influence from The Rolling Stones than the album sleeve alone and acts as the lazy 60’s-esque ode to the morning after the night before.
Just like 'West Ryder Silver Bullet', 'Secret Alphabets' thrives on its own enthused simplicity. An hypnotic drum beat and more Eastern guitar slips along nicely with Meighan and Pizzorno’s hushed if graceful vocals. With its Doors-esque start, including Meighan's admirable Jim Morrison impression, it may seem surprising to learn that 'Fire' is the lead single yet sits as the penultimate track. A minute passes before the track launches into life with a final flourish of Eastern guitar and ever more swaggering vocals. Yet sometimes the band just do not help themselves and leave on a somewhat familiar note in the grandeur dripping piano-led finale that is 'Happiness'. Therein lies the problem. That though Kasabian have presented an ardent and vividly rewarding album, they will always be tagged as the lad rock kings in waiting. Whether the violent overtones and military elements can be ignored remains to be seen.