Plumbiferous Media

The West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum - Kasabian

Jun 18th 2009
No Comments
The West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum - KasabianKasabian
The West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Score: 42

Kasabi­an released their third album, The West Ryder Pau­per Lunatic Asy­lum, ear­li­er this month, and it is no excep­tion to the band’s record of pop­u­lar­i­ty. Kasabi­an wast­ed no time in reach­ing high UK chart posi­tions; its first self-titled album hit num­ber four and the next, Empire, rose all the way to the top. Kasabi­an’s newest album has also peaked at the num­ber one spot, but The West Ryder Pau­per Lunatic Asy­lum does not quite live up to its hype.

Two main prob­lems affect the entire album. The first and fore­most of these prob­lems is the fuzz. Through­out most of the album each instru­ment is masked by a heavy dose of fuzz, dis­tor­tion, or a sim­i­lar effect - it even reach­es the vocals on more than one occa­sion. While this may pro­vide the band with an easy method of achiev­ing some sort of pas­sion on some tracks (“Under­dog” is the best exam­ple of well used effects), the fuzz sim­ply does not fit on oth­ers. Asy­lum’s instru­men­tal track, “Swarfi­ga” is com­plete­ly mut­ed and smoothed over, leav­ing what can only be described as instru­men­tal mush. Even though on any oth­er album it would eas­i­ly be for­got­ten, “Fire” is one of the most aston­ish­ing tracks on the album sim­ply because, for the first time, all of the mut­ing and fuzz is com­plete­ly removed, leav­ing a much brighter, clean sound. Even the drums, which ear­li­er remained most­ly on a soft-cym­bal filled beat, accom­pa­nied by a soft­er bass drum, sud­den­ly expe­ri­ence an enor­mous jump in quality.

The sec­ond prob­lem is in the gen­er­al­ly unin­ter­est­ing instru­men­tal lines. While any line may seem intrigu­ing ini­tial­ly, it invari­ably ends up quick­ly mov­ing into rep­e­ti­tion, leav­ing only the vocals to direct each track. Of course, when Tom Meighan stops singing for an instru­men­tal inter­lude, the result often sounds like a solo sec­tion with the solo line removed.

Tom Meighan’s voice is imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able for its par­tic­u­lar style - a slight drone which nev­er­the­less man­ages to remain inter­est­ing. The vari­ety of styles which Meighan takes on over the course of The West Ryder Pau­per Lunatic Asy­lum lend the album a sub­stan­tial degree of diver­si­ty, pre­vent­ing it from blend­ing into itself. How­ev­er, at the same time, his vocal lines are at best bland and at worst irri­tat­ing, which this vari­a­tion can­not com­plete­ly excuse.

Meighan’s vocals flit between an easy rela­tion­ship with the instru­men­tal line (see “Under­dog”) and hor­ri­ble clash­ing which degrades both the line and his vocals (such as on “Where Did All the Love Go?”), and it is dur­ing the lat­ter tracks that the weak­ness­es in Meighan’s vocals become all too clear. Though his vocals are gen­er­al­ly at least inter­est­ing, in these cas­es they occa­sion­al­ly slip into a sort of screech, which is not ame­lio­rat­ed by the dis­tor­tion per­vad­ing the album. But for the most part, Meighan’s vocals are a source of inter­est for Asy­lum even if, among his myr­i­ad vocal styles, it’s quite dif­fi­cult to find a sin­gle style which is espe­cial­ly notable.

Though Meighan’s vocals are inter­est­ing if not phe­nom­e­nal, the dread­ful lyrics don’t help the album at all. Through­out Asy­lum, the lyrics seem less cho­sen to evoke a mes­sage, image or feel­ing than to rhyme, regard­less of what they con­sist of or sound like. Meighan repeats lines like “Oh take aim now” (in that case over ten times), which pre­vents many tracks from tru­ly pro­gress­ing as their worst or most banal lines are repeat­ed incessantly.

Hap­pi­ly, the absolute worst lines of Asy­lum gen­er­al­ly aren’t repeat­ed - it would be tru­ly painful to hear the non­sen­si­cal mess rep­re­sent­ed by lyrics such as “I’m a Lucifer­’s child, wild, acid done / Black sun­glass­es shade the morn­ing sun, and come get me / All you fuck­ers can’t touch me / I’m a hooli­gan choir, sire.” Even when Asy­lum has its few tru­ly excel­lent lyri­cal episodes, such as the intro­duc­tion to “Thick As Thieves:” “Here we were, thick as thieves / Fright­ened by shad­ows in the autumn leaves,” they’re quick­ly swal­lowed up by the rep­e­ti­tion of weak­er lines. All con­sid­ered, in terms of lyrics, Asy­lum is less abysmal than sim­ply con­fus­ing - why would Kasabi­an write such weak lyrics and then swal­low up their best efforts with tired phrases?

The West Ryder Pau­per Lunatic Asy­lum is not an amaz­ing suc­cess for Kasabi­an. From over­ly dis­tort­ed, uncre­ative instru­men­tals to inter­est­ing but some­what lack­ing vocals and per­plex­ing­ly awful lyrics, Asy­lum is filled with places where Kasabi­an could have eas­i­ly improved to cre­ate a much bet­ter album. Asy­lum does­n’t so much suf­fer from a lack of tal­ent as a lack of cre­ative impulse - to the point where the short spo­ken word sam­ple at the begin­ning of “West Rid­er Sil­ver Bul­let” demon­strates that “emus in the zone” are quite pos­si­bly the high­est cre­ative lev­el Kasabi­an reached on this album. But even so, The West Ryder Pau­per Lunatic Asy­lum is not awful (except­ing, per­haps, the lyrics), but sim­ply disappointing.

This post is tagged ,

Leave a Reply