Kasabian ‘Velociraptor’ (Columbia)
Kasabian have often been tarnished with the “lad-rock” brush by snobbish music fans and critics alike, and to be fair you have to admit that they have a point. They came at a time when Oasis were still prominent in the British music scene, swilling lager and making V-signs at every passer-by, and its safe to say that this probably helped them out a great deal in appealing to a mass audience. Singer Tom Meighan’s heavily pronounced Leicestershire accent and boisterous stage presence also reinforced their image as being another band for the indie branch of England’s football hooligans.
Their 2004 debut was brilliant and gave the world their electronica-infused alternative rock whilst demonstrating their ability to experiment as well as maintain a concept within the record. Now at album number four, loudly titled “Velociraptor!”, the band have kept their trademark sound whilst delving a little into songs with more melody and grandeur, and less of the “in your face” attitude that earned them their laddish persona in the first place. Apart from a couple of songs, such as the no-nonsense (and not very good) title track, there seems to be an understated feel to the record. I wouldn’t describe it as necessarily being calmer, but its definitely less hectic than their previous 3 efforts.
The cool opening track “Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To” lays down the foundations for how the album is going to sound, and keeps the band’s psychadelic essence as well as the addition of some slick mariachi flavours. The horn section takes us to the centre of a Western (similar to the setting of their “Fire” video) and then twists and turns around the verses causing the song to sound like it could easily be the next Bond theme. In my opinion it’s one of the stand-out highlights of “Velociraptor!” and far better than the album’s lead single, “Days Are Forgotten”, which is OK until it is let down by the rather weak chorus.
The first song that was revealed a couple of months ago was “Switchblade Smiles”, which I didn’t really rate much upon first listening. The chant that builds up to the chorus kind of ruined it for me, as I felt that it made the band come across as a charicature of themselves with the sneer of: “Can ya feel it comin’?” But after a few more spins I grew to like the eerie atmospherics and the heavy, thudding bass that slid along under the techno-inspired track. More reason for me to come to the conclusion that parts of the album are growers.
The best things about this record are definitely the subtle touches, such as the string section on “Acid Turkish Bath” (which do well to compliment Serge Pizzorno’s soothing vocals) and the drum machine samples on the minimal “I Hear Voices”, which harks back to their debut which was awash with computer glitches and dubbed out bass. Despite the fact that I’ve always liked Kasabian, I have also been well aware that they do more than borrow from Primal Scream, blending guitar rock with dance-tinged electronics.
However, this album shows Kasabian finally making their sound their own, and trying a couple of new things whilst sticking to their roots. It’s tough for mainstream British indie bands to continue producing great albums these days, and many fall flat on their faces after a good debut or if they’re lucky, a satisfying sophomore effort. But along with Arctic Monkeys and a handful of others, Kasabian are holding the fort and keeping up the good work. “Velociraptor!” isn’t as iconic as “Kasabian” or as explosive and memorable as “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum”, but its still enjoyable and creeps up on you more and more with each listen. Fans of the band will certainly appreciate it.