KASABIAN: The Alchemist’s Euphoria (Colombia)
Verdict: Pick ‘n’ Mix Pizzorno
PALE WAVES: Unwanted (Dirty Hit)
Verdict: Surf the pop punk streams
DELETE: Day-Glo (Based on a true story) (Mute)
Conclusion: Slim but light
KASABIAN have always walked a tightrope between young rock and the more esoteric taste of songwriter Serge Pizzorno.
The Leicester band’s riotous instincts earned them a headline spot at Glastonbury in 2014; Guitarist Pizzorno’s love of hip-hop, electronics and elaborate film scores made them interesting.
Their attraction was rooted in the musical tension between Pizzorno and ex-singer Tom Meighan, who was the band’s energetic center on stage.
That partnership ended abruptly in 2020 when Meighan left the group by mutual consent, a day before he pleaded guilty to assaulting his then-fiancé (now his wife) Vikki Ager.
The former frontman was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and entered rehab for alcohol addiction. He has since moved to Cornwall and launched a solo career.
The rest of the band decided to continue without him, with Pizzorno becoming lead singer.
The Alchemist’s Euphoria is the first new music from the newly formed line-up – which also includes Chris Edwards, Ian Matthews and second guitarist Tim Carter – and, perhaps understandably, an uneven affair.
There are nods to the crowd-friendly Britpop swagger of old, but it’s Pizzorno’s more eclectic inclinations that call the shots.
He doesn’t hold back. He made an experimental solo album, The SLP, three years ago and revisits similar styles here.
Kasabian songwriter Serge Pizzorno (pictured) had musical tensions with ex-singer Tom Meighan, who used to be the band’s energetic centerpiece on stage
There’s guitar-driven rockers, rap numbers, atmospheric interludes and even a folk tune. Many of the song titles – Scriptvre, Alygatyr, Stargazr – take liberties with the English language.
Covering so many bases, there’s a feeling that the new frontman might be trying too hard in the wake of Meighan’s departure, and The Alchemist’s Euphoria will have many fans scratching their heads.
Where they once took their cues from Oasis and Primal Scream, their closest bedfellows may now be Radiohead.
There are moments to enjoy. Scriptvre starts out as an East Midlands version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1991 single Give It Away, before evolving into psychedelic rocker with oriental strings and whimsical synths.
A grand, emotional ballad about overcoming adversity, The Wall was broadcast during BBC coverage of the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 victory.
TRACKING OF THE WEEK
BEACH HOUSE by CARLY RAE JEPSEN
Ten years after breakthrough hit Call Me Maybe, the Canadian turns her attention to online dating disasters with a disco-ready cracker. A new album, The Lonliest Time, will be out in October.
Serge imposed strict rules in the studio. There should be no lockdown songs (a good move) and everything should be kept short and sweet.
He also vowed not to write about Meighan’s departure and its fallout – although there’s a ton of stuff about staying resilient and moving on. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he sings at one point. The less predictable moments are hit and miss.
TUE – short for The Ultraview Effect – and Stargazr are rambling sci-fi tunes that would have been better off on a solo album, but Letting Go is a lovely folk ballad.
How is Pizzorno developing as a leading actor? He’s a capable singer, although he seems to feel most at home on songs he can both rap and sing on.
A natural sideman, he’s better at being Richards than Jagger, but that’s still a solid start. It echoes his artistry – but also his restlessness and lack of concentration.
“The pandemic has changed the way we make art,” says Heather Baron-Gracie, frontwoman of Mancun-based pop-punk quartet Pale Waves.
“People want to dance around and have energy. I didn’t want an album where two songs are hard hitting and you skip the rest.”
The 27-year-old lead guitarist and singer keeps her word on Unwanted, the band’s third album and a 13-track fireworks display of crunching power chords and soaring harmonies, laced with a handful of sensitive ballads.
Heather Baron-Gracie, frontwoman of Mancunian pop-punk quartet Pale Waves, performing at Sheffield’s O2 Academy in 2022
The record was recorded in Los Angeles with Blink-182 producer Zakk Cervini, suggesting the band already have their sights set on conquering the United States.
Nothing groundbreaking here. Pale Waves take inspiration from outfits like Green Day and Paramore; and their choruses wouldn’t sound out of place on an Avril Lavigne album.
But Unwanted is played with esprit and Baron-Gracie opens her heart to soul-searching lyrics.
While writing about her relationships as a gay woman, she strikes an upbeat tone on “Clean” (“You’re the only girl I just can’t get enough of”), but otherwise the songs are often tales of woe.
“I wish I could go back to the night I met you… so I could tell you to go to hell,” she sings on “Alone”; On “Without You” she laments: “My tears could fill an ocean.”
If that sounds dejected, it’s not… quite. With pop punk making a comeback across the Atlantic thanks to Olivia Rodrigo and a revived Lavigne, there’s now a homegrown band poised to make a name for themselves.
ERASURE recalled their ’80s heyday with 2020’s ‘The Neon’, an excellent album that reiterated keyboardist Vince Clarke’s melodic genius. Its retro synth-pop even lent itself to a fun remix album in 2021. However, using the same raw material for the third time pushes it forward.
Not that Day-Glo bears much resemblance to its two predecessors. Faced with the unexpected lockdown studio time, Clarke re-jigged some of The Neon’s backing tracks and sent them to singer Andy Bell, who provided ad-libbed vocals and choral singing. There are moments of silky beauty. But — aside from Inside Out’s dance grooves — this feels like a stopgap.
KASABIAN open a tour at The Telegraph Building, Belfast on October 20th (ticketmaster.co.uk). Pale Waves are playing Boardmasters, Newquay (boardmasters.com) tomorrow.
A rare opera outing is a hilarious treat
Utopia Limited (National G&S Opera Company)
Verdict: Rarity that repays attention
Utopia Limited, the penultimate of Gilbert and Sullivan’s great series of Savoy operas, is not often performed – the resident company at the annual G&S Festival has only done so once.
I’m dating George Bernard Shaw who loved it. Yes, it has flaws: Act 1 is too long and verbose, although, being Gilbert’s words, they are mostly droll; and Act 2 concludes with almost indecent haste.
Watching the Pacific island of Utopia turn into a limited company at the behest of eldest daughter Zara, who was educated at Girton, is hilarious, especially the cabinet meeting to end all these gatherings in Act 2.
King Paramount, Ben McAteer (left) and Mr. Goldbury, Paul Featherstone (right), at Utopia Limited
No expense was spared, especially in the costume department: the ladies in particular are gorgeously dressed up.
King Paramount, voiced sonorous by Ben McAteer, could use a better wig and throne, but the stage is always interesting.
Monica McGhee is a pretty, suitably steely Zara, and as Captain Fitzbattleaxe – one of the “flowers of progress” she recruits for her Anglicization program – Anthony Flaum handles being asked by the writers to sing badly!
The other “Flowers” are well cast, particularly Mr. Goldbury, the company’s promoter (Paul Featherstone) and Lord Dramaleigh, the Lord Chamberlain (Tim Walton).
John Andrews conducts with panache, the National Festival Orchestra plays in style, and the choruses and other big scenes move with panache.
This production should really be seen as a festival transfer to Harrogate.
Utopia Limited performs at the G&S Festival in Harrogate this Sunday and Saturday 20th August; gsfestivals.org.