I'd say that I'm quite fair and neutral when it comes to reviewing a Kasabian record. I'm not one of those critics that are too blinded by their hatred of the band to give their music a fair hearing, and I'm not one of the deluded hype mongers who believe they're the saviours of rock n roll. Like a lot of people, I find their arrogance ludicrously silly, and their habit of talking absolute bollocks doesn't exactly make me like them any more. But it doesn't prevent me from enjoying some of their music, which often combines styles and sounds to create something that's melodic and anthemic, yet forward thinking and modern. I'll admit to being sceptical about their first two albums, but soon fell under their spell, and consider 'West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum' and 2011's 'Velociraptor' to be superb pieces of work. '48:13' is their fifth studio album, and strips back the more layered sound of their previous two efforts to return to a stripped back electronic based sound that leaves space for simple touches to make more of an impact.
The brief 'Shiva' just sounds like one minute of them testing out a load of analogue synths, before the forceful baggy trip hop of 'Bumblebee' brings to mind an amalgamation of Led Zeppelin, The Chemical Brothers and Wu Tang Clan, jumping out the speakers with a rowdy chorus that goes off like a bomb. Dodgy lyrics aside, it's impressive. Even better is the defiant 'Stevie', which comes pacing down the track like a hungry assassin, full of vigour and ready to do battle. The short segue '(Mortis)' precedes the electro-ska hip hop madness of the brilliantly arranged, hook packed 'Doomsday', which is so much fun that the clichéd banality of the lyrics can be overlooked. The hard breakbeat funk of progressive centrepiece 'Treat' is exactly as the title says, progressing into a hypnotic house groove, another example of how they can get it right by applying fantastic, imaginative instrumentation. One of their best.
It all starts so well, but can the rest of '48:13' keep up the quality level? The album's second half begins in a darker fashion with the clattering beats and bleak synth patterns of 'Glass', which sees spells of rebooted Beatles-esque psychedelica, unexpectedly ending with a very likely opinion dividing guest rap that asks "when did we stop believing, when did we stop marching?" 'Explodes' is less successful, and despite helpings of delicious analogue synth, there doesn't feel like there's much of a song there. Again, the lyrics are far from imaginative. The odd, brief segue 'Levitate' is slightly pointless and doesn't really add much to the album, while the relatively basic rock filler 'Clouds' comes across as rather half arsed. 'Eez-eh' reflects the times in a manner that's appropriately just as ridiculous as these times are, a thumping slice of geezer disco that leaps into a fine bit of raver lunacy about halfway through. It'll bury itself into your head like a lot of '48:13' will, but this doesn't prevent it being utter nonsense. Take for example their idea of a hard hitting political lyric: "the wrong men have the power, it's turning my milk sour". Wow. Take that, establishment. So when it comes to politics they're hardly the MC5, but maybe they fare a bit better at expressing the draining despair of crumbling romance on the epic 21st century power pop of 'Bow'? "Are you kidding, this is mental, 'cause you know what we had was broken from the start". Nope, they're no good at that either. The song itself is pretty shoddy too, in fact it sounds a little bit like the piss-weak whinerock of the Lostprophets. And that's the last band you want to be sounding like, given recent events...
The album concludes with the sleepy, country-tinged acoustic ballad 'SPS', where the electronics are nowhere to be heard. Listenable enough but completely out of place and somewhat unremarkable, especially for a closing track.
So a mixed bag then, containing a handful of superb tracks and just as many bad ones. By going with their gut instincts, their ideas can work brilliantly when the quality is there, but their overconfidence leads to laziness and a not giving a fuck about the lyrical improvements that needed to be made. Didn't anyone around them have the balls to advise them that the lyrics might have needed some serious tweaking? It's undeniable that at times they are great at what they do, and their genre blending has to be admired. But the album takes a woeful slide during its second half, declining into uninspired, predictable dross. Out of all the entries in their discography so far, '48:13' is the album that highlights both the very best and the very worst sides of Kasabian. 5.5/10