Practicing truth in advertising, U.K. rockers Kasabian move away from the revolutionary sleeve art that graced their debut and onto something more ornate for their elaborate follow-up album, Empire. Attacking the sophomore jinx head-on, Empire tries hard to be urgent, epic, and important, and the grand mishmash of influences -- the Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones -- is delivered with all the conviction and swagger one desires from the scruffy crew with the Oasis-sized ego. Adding to this jumble are Sweet, Slade, and Ian Brown, who are all equally responsible for the opening title cut. Glammed-up rebel music, "Empire" is a satisfying, busy rocker that gives way to the interesting rave-up "Shoot the Runner," which would be very T. Rex if it wasn't for the Euro-disco Giorgio Moroder-styled bridge. From here 'til the album's final stretch, twists, turns, and time changes are in abundance and imagination runs wild as Brit-pop smokes a hookah and sits on a multicolored toadstool. Lost in all this is the instantly grabbing songwriting of Kasabian's debut, and to some extent, the bandmembers themselves, who often seem to be riding this swirl instead of guiding it. They regain control right about "By My Side," a memorable, lush tune that suggests what it would sound like if James Bond film themes had proper B-sides. The winding "Stuntman" is as ambitious as anything else here but the pieces all fall into place for a change, and by the time the perfect, slowly developing closer "The Doberman" rolls around, this unapproachable effort has sort of explained itself and even seduced a little. Repeat listens help put things in place, and a familiarity with the band helps a lot, so go to their much more focused debut for the real punch, then come here when you want something bigger but not necessarily better.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries