An oft brazen posse, Kasabian have taken over Europe and beyond by storm and surprisingly toppled Muse’s stranglehold on the NME’s Best Live Band award. The bullishness, swagger, and verve they bring on stage and into interviews are often misconstrued as yob-like and chav-ish, causing many to dismiss the band with Oasis comparisons and Britpop pigeonholing.
These comparisons are further compounded by the group’s ascension everywhere but America, mirroring the similar fate of The Kinks, The Jam, Blur, Pulp, and a stream of Brit bands that never found a foothold on these shores. Yet, unlike the many who suffered these consequences before them, the Leicestershire quintet really doesn’t give a … care.
Unphased and determined, Kasabian just released their fourth studio album, Velociraptor!, their most experiential and musically diverse to date.
Instead of playing it safe and replicating the formula of their previous release, the million selling West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, the lads here eschew comfort for eclecticism. More hodge than podge, Velociraptor! meanders with forceful purpose.
The extremes between Velociraptor! tracks are initially jarring, which seems to be the desired effect. For the first few listens, the album felt like a collection of songs versus a cohesive opus. Then a transformation took place with subsequent playings: it all came together, causing a personal metamorphosis for me as a listener. While not as extreme as Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music or Will Sergeant’s Theme for Grind, Velociraptor! still forced me to re-think my perceptions of what an album is or should be. That is no small feat for an old dog like me, and it is the antithesis of the Oasis modus operandi, which seemed to reinforce the conventional album construct.
Starting with a gong and a drone, the opener, “Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To,” abruptly shifts atmospherically from something transcendental to Motown-flavoured Britpop, complete with a “Cemetery Gates” reference. And it’s only the first of many sleight-of-hands ahead. Not satisfied with just flavouring, Kasabian drive deeper into the Motor City with “Goodbye Kiss,” which is underwritten with a “Be My Baby”-tinged jingle.
On “Days Are Forgotten,” the band returns to the infectious rave and roll credo that catapulted them to their current stature. Super-sized and anthemic, the song is destined for FM, satellite radio, or another CSI cameo, and with lyrics like “Call me a cliché / How right you are,” the band cheekily knows it.
Seismically, the title track also knowingly replicates the spectre of previous Kasabian singles with its wall of rocky/ravey noise. “Re-wired” comes close, with its sing-along chorus, slurping high hats, and swirling guitars, but veers from stadium and anthem territory into shamelessly delicious disco.
“I Hear Voices,” on the other hand, tips its hat back to tracks from their first album, and is the perfect companion to the underrated “Pinch Roller,” “Orange” and “Ovary Stripe.”
In fact, chief songwriter and guitarist Serge Pizzorno and singer Tom Meighan fare better when they focus inward, because the lowlights on Velociraptor! stem from merely replicating their influences. The Beatles-esque “La Fee Verte” starts with a lushness stronger than anywhere else on the album, but becomes tired quickly from its lack of originality and downright narcoleptic “Lucy in the Sky” lyric.
Similarly, the unfortunately titled “Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm)” wraps itself in Zeppelin-esque cashmere, but then unravels into insipid Kula Shaker territory–a band I was happier never to think about again.
Thankfully, these are the only shaky steps in an otherwise sure (club) footed album.
Velociraptor! closes with the one-two punch of the teaser single “Switchblade Smiles” and its pugilistic beats, which are then deftly counterbalanced by the drifting ambience of “Neon Noon,” the track that might be the most approachable and emotive “slow” song the band has ever written. It’s a curious and further forward-looking way of bringing closure to a curious and forward-looking album.
–Chris “Gutter” Rose