It’s vital that Kasabian avoid slipping into the ‘Oasis wannabe’ category. Much of their music, appearance, charisma and rise to fame has often been compared to the Manchester band, but based on the Leicester lads’ latest lashing, the fourth studio album Velociraptor!, they may yet escape the imposed Gallagher shadow.
The pre-release single Switchblade Smiles is heavy with those typical pulsating beats, and psychedelic vocals from lead singer Tom Meighan. As with a lot of the album, it also features, (quite refreshingly in fact) an electro pulse. Exciting, abrasive, moody electro rock, all makes for relatively captivating listening, similarly found with the over the top title track, featuring the brilliant opening lyrics: Blast off/ He’ll try to shoot you with precision/ Take your face off’. We all know Kasabian can ‘Av’ It Large’. By this, I of course refer to those huge Indie rock songs which claimed them to fame in the early days of 2004’s Club Foot and the like. The new album has its fair share of these, including the rather dull and familiar sounding Re-wired. Yet this is by no means ‘same again, Kasabian’.
Eastern influences are smeared across this album almost unceremoniously. We heard glimpses of this on the previous West Ryder Lunatic Asylum. Even the rockin’ second single Days Are Forgotten is infused with Eastern flourishes, from the fortieth thief shrills of guitarist and lynchpin Sergio Pizzorno. The greatest example of Eastern flair comes with Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm), a proper trippy trip with Arabian strings and menacing cantankerous drums, matched with incredibly bizarre lyrics, something that Meighan and Pizzorno have become particularly adept to. The follow on track, I Hear Voices however, features comparatively lazy lyrics, and sounds similar to the eponymous debuts’ ID and Ovary Stripe, yet still has an overwhelming injection of Eastern authority stamped across it.
There is another overriding influence in Velociraptor! (the more I write it, the more ludicrous it becomes as an album title, and what exactly does the ‘!’ add?) One can really hear the sounds of The Beatles straining through. The Pizzorno led La Fée Verte (The Green Fairy) apart from the reference to ‘Lucy in the Sky’, has elements of both Sergeant Pepper’s absurdity and The White Album’s complexity. Presumably revolving around an absinth binge/epiphany, it’s a brilliant slow, explorative song, with brass, om-pah rhythms and the words: ‘The neighbours say that I need locking up/Well they wouldn’t be the first to want me in a hurse/ No one sleeps for I am still awake/ Pass me over La Fée Verte/ I’ll give you all a scare’ all demonstrating a progression in Kasabian’s music, even if Meighan and Pizzorno, not wanting to be Gallagher and Gallagher, are craving to be Lennon and McCartney (also apparent on the sleepy and rather captivating closer Neon Noon).
As if electro/Eastern/psychedelic pop wasn’t’ enough, there is still time for a couple of cheesy Sophisti-Pop songs like opener Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To and love ballad, Goodbye Kiss. Both are quite agreeable songs, yet displays an almost filler-status; a means of making up the numbers, and not really matching the overall quality of other songs on the album.
The remaining song Man of Simple Pleasures has me in a whirl. Having strived to avoid it, if you had to pick one song, which would fall into the Oasis camp, this would be it (Noel could do it very well). Then again, the opening sounds like a combination of The Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon and Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood, which already grants it amnesty, and forces that creeping sense of disappointment to the back of one’s mind. It features a beautifully sung chorus with a soothing synth, and finishes with a wonderful duet between Sergio and Tom. It truly is the most entertaining song on the album.
This fusion of 60s pop with modern synth is the level of ambition Kasabian need to head towards. The reliance on Lad rock must end if the band are to progress at all. The flashes of genius displayed on the slower numbers are drowned out by the reliance of the chosen singles and of course: ‘VEH-LOS-SA-RAP-TAH’. At the height of their popularity, Kasabian are now faced with the toughest choice of their career to date: toe the Lad’s line or dive into endless experimentation and innovative sounds.
Velociraptor! is out now on RCA