Kasabian review, The Alchemist’s Euphoria: Departure of Tom Meighan hasn’t dimmed electro-rockers’ energy

·3-min read
Kasabian are back on impressively punchy and experimental form (Columbia)
Kasabian are back on impressively punchy and experimental form (Columbia)

Twitter users were understandably angry when the BBC used Kasabian’s new single, “The Wall”, to play out coverage of the Lionesses’ Euros win last month. Following the women’s historic win with music by an all-male rock band (whose former frontman was recently convicted of domestic violence) was an own goal for the Beeb and the band, whose new song took too much flak for being “slow and boring”.

Although “The Wall” is a slow-burner of an anthem, the band’s seventh album finds the electro-rockers on impressively punchy and experimental form. Fans may have worried that energy levels would dip without the chaotic charisma of Tom Meighan’s vocals, but songwriter Sergio Pizzorno brings his own fight to the mic, ensuring The Alchemist’s Euphoria delivers more than enough adrenaline to keep mosh pits churning and enough invention in its textural shifts to keep things fresh.

The album opens with an acoustic strum of “Alchemist” and a sneer at the haters (whom Pizzorno orders to shut the door on their way out), before the track bulks up with chunky synths banging out Nineties house chords and Ian Matthews’s rattling rock drums. Things really get going with the distorted semi-rapping of “Scriptvre”. Over a pounding beat, swaggering brass hooks and action-movie strings, Pizzorno slots together a sequence of interlocking melodies. “Throw it up, run it down/ Kick it till it breaks,” brawls the new frontman. “Get the vile, get the blood/ Give me aggro/ Take ’em all on my own, like I’m Rambo…” The violence in Pizzorno’s lyrics would make it impossible for Meighan to sing many of these songs should he ever return to the band, as he has hinted he might like to do.

There’s a more serrated menace underpinning the mood of “Rocket Fuel”, on which the band channel Prodigy’s feral techno thrills (“Going to the party/ Wanna f*** it up”), and a handbrake-turn screech of a riff underpinning “Alygatyr”, although the track drags a little like its titular reptile out of water, as Pizzorno attempts to dial up his inner Iggy Pop while chanting: “Never back down!”.

A rubber band twang and rotating flute synths bring a more original vibe to “Tuve”. I caught myself wondering if this song was about Meighan’s struggle with (recently diagnosed) ADHD and alcohol addiction. Pizzorno’s voice – lower in the mix here – describes events that spiralled out of control “right before my eyes” and asks for somebody to “hold up a sign to let me know you’re safe and sound”. There’s a cool spaced-out change of tempo before some dreamy harmonies kick in, nodding heavily towards Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (an album also partly inspired by the loss of a frontman with mental health and addiction issues). The intergalactic synths continue to chart Kasabian’s course through “Star Gazer”, before the sound of sweat on Matthews’s sticks bring things head banging back to earth with “Chemicals”, a track that could have used a tune and a more original chorus than “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Still, you don’t come to Kasabian for the profundity of their lyrics. You come to them to power through. Get on one. Have at it. They’re sounding less thuggish and more nuanced than of old. But they’ve still got that off-kilter alchemy.