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This review might be the hardest that anybody has ever thought about Kasabian. Harder than their management, the good people at RCA, their fans, and possibly everybody else in the world. Certainly harder than the UK dance-rockers themselves. But Kasabian must have cast a little bit of thought toward Kasabian during the creation of Empire, the group’s sophomore record, right? Guitarist Sergio Pizzorno must have sweated a little bit over whether the track “Me Plus One” was as effectively stoned as the Stone Roses? And didn’t singer Tom Meighan wonder whether “By My Side” was screaming Screamadelica-ly enough? Will the end product inspire a definite case of the Happy Mondays? Kasabian might say Definitely Maybe, but the truth is probably not—callous disregard for its own product could be the only explanation for the club-clearing failures that haunt Empire like the reanimated corpse of Bez. No matter how many moves Kasabian cops from idols such as the Charlatans UK, the band’s identity remains thinner than Richey James. It takes only 45 seconds for the title track, the album’s lead song, to completely shush any and all buzz that the band stirred up with singles like “Processed Beats” from its self-titled 2004 debut. What begins as a distorted octave bass stomp quickly disintegrates into what can only be described as an arena jig. It’s a brief and terrifying glimpse at what the UK equivalent of “Cotton-Eyed Joe (Remix)” might sound like. The Dr. Who–meets–T-Rex stomp of “Shoot the Runner” is equally if not more confusing: “Shoot the runner, shoot-shoot the runner” sings Meighan for no discernible reason before thoughtfully adding “I’m a king and she’s my queen…bitch!” Empire sounds as if it were composed on a pub napkin when the band was on bacchanalian auto-pilot during five spare minutes between a drunken brawl with Liam Gallagher and a failed pass at Kate Moss. But since when did anybody need to think about rock ’n’ roll? Kasabian never intended nor desired that their music stand up to any sort of critical scrutiny. They would likely insist that Empire is to be enjoyed while getting stupid and hanging out with your best mates, preferably in the company of stiff lager. But it takes a lot of drink and a special audience to shake a leg to a song that best evokes a night out on the town with the Douglas Adams fan club, and that is one audience that definitely isn’t thinking very hard about Kasabian.—Aaron Leitko
Kasabian performs at the Virgin Festival by Virgin Mobile, Saturday, Sept. 23, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. For more information, visit virginfestival.com