Primal Scream
Kasabian

Riot City Blues
(Columbia)
Empire
(RCA)

Even when Primal Scream didn't match the creative heights reached by Screamadelica's rave-worthy bliss-outs or the electro-punk of XTRMNTR, they never lacked self-confidence. After all, they coaxed (and kept) My Bloody Valentine's reclusive Kevin Shields out of hibernation, and had the courage to embrace sinewy darkwave long before it was hip again. But it's taken the U.K. band nearly two decades to produce an album as strident as Riot City Blues — i.e., their first album of guitar-centric rock that doesn't sound tentative or tired.

Blues sounds like the result of an all-night whiskey bender spent listening to the Stones and Faces, a disc full of loosey-goosey blues jams jumpy with harmonica and shambling guitars. The leadoff track, "Country Girl," marches forward with propulsive guitar riffs and twitterpated mandolin, while stomping highlight "Nitty Gritty" shakes its moneymaker for all it's worth, and the barnstorming bounce "We're Gonna Boogie" is just what it sounds like. Tellingly, though, the album's centerpieces are "Little Death" — a woozy, six-minute tune that's reminiscent of the spooky death rattles found on the band's 1997 disc Vanishing Point — and "Dolls (Sweet Rock and Roll)," a glammy number closer in spirit to the Velvet Underground (mainly because of Bobby Gillespie's Lou Reed-like speak-sing delivery). Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with each album, the Scream are becoming better at smudging their influences together as they age; the proof is in the enjoyable, irresistible Blues.

No one would ever accuse Kasabian of trying to invent anything; their 2004 debut more often than not sounded like XTRMNTR: The Sequel (albeit as imagined by the Stone Roses). The excellent, dance-floor-friendly Empire contains much of the same bombast and electro-swagger — check the squalling guitars that finish "Shoot the Runner" or vocalist Tom Meighan's anguished sneer throughout — that should be familiar to even cursory Primal Scream fans. But Kasabian is best enjoyed when considered separate from their obvious influences; only then can one truly delve into and appreciate "Me Plus One" — a trippy synth-stomp that's somewhat like the Happy Mondays without the lazy-itis — or "Sun/Rise/Light/Flies," a soaring, string-laden anthem that splits the difference between the Chemical Brothers and Oasis.

 
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