Kasabian – Velociraptor!
It must be a bit frustrating for Kasabian that, even after the success of their inventively psychedelic third album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, they are still branded in some quarters as unoriginal lad-rockers in thrall to the likes of Oasis and Primal Scream. While this may be an unfair judgement, Kasabian don’t help themselves out. As well as being adopted by the beer-chucking Oasis crowd thanks to their propensity for massive, terrace-friendly choruses, their music works hard not to fit into any genre (going from straight-up guitar rock, to dance, glam, hip-hop and electro) – meaning they lazily get lumped into the pigeon-hole labelled ‘lad-rock’ simply for being lads who make guitar music.
Thinking about it though, their misrepresentation as the new ‘band of the people’ is probably what has helped them the most in becoming one of the biggest bands in the country. They certainly walk, talk and act like the best band in the world, and when they’re on form (from ‘LSF’ and ‘Club Foot’ through to ‘Fire’ and ‘Underdog’) they definitely sound like world-beaters. But they haven’t yet produced a consistent enough album worthy of their position as the next big rock band. West Ryder… was the closest they’ve come, but that too was hindered by a poor filler-to-killer ratio.
So what of Velociraptor!? Has the bands movement into fatherhood and the thirties led them to a more mature and consistent album? The answer is a most definite yes. Velociraptor! is the album Kasabian fans have been crying out for – mixing the familiar in-your-face attitude while finally nailing the slower, more introspective songs. Take ‘La Fee Verte’ for instance. The Serge sung ode to absinthe would have been a prime candidate for filler in any of their previous albums. On Velociraptor! though, it feels like a fully formed song featuring lyrics that Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles may not have used, but would have at least considered! – “Oh green fairy what you done to me? / I see Lucy in the sky / Telling me I’m high / I went out for some milk three days ago / I met Dali in the street / He knocked me off my feet”
What is striking about Velociraptor! in relation to their previous albums is how melodic it is. Previous Kasabian albums have been characterised by thumping electro riffs, but ‘Switchblade Smiles’ is the only song that really fits that bill here. Album opener ‘Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To’ is almost gentle, with its cruising tempo and wistfully nostalgic lyrics; while ‘Goodbye Kiss’ can only be described as a ballad – nicely showcasing Tom’s ability to do vulnerable and emotional just as well as cocky and antagonistic.
Lead single ‘Days Are Forgotten’ gets us back into familiar Kasabian territory, with its bass-heavy riff overseeing Tom in full-on rock star posturing mode. The title track follows suit, making sure the forthcoming Kasabian live shows will be as lively as ever. ‘Rewired’ is perhaps the best of Velociraptor’s! high-tempo tunes, featuring a chorus that can only go one way in arenas –“Hit me harder / I’m getting Rewired / I flick the switch that make you feel electric / Even faster than before…”
As with West Ryder… Kasabian chose Dan The Automater as producer for Velociraptor!, and his fingerprints are all over ‘I Hear Voices’ and ‘Man Of Simple Pleasures’. ‘I Hear Voices’ is probably the most surprising song on the album – starting off with their familiar bass throb, you would bet money on it exploding into life with a typically barn-storming riff. Instead, a simple and melodic synth riff shows up in its place, as if Dan The Automater saved over the wrong file on his iPad with a Gorillaz track. In this case he gets away with it – opening up Kasabian’s sound nicely with a different approach. The same can’t be said for ‘Man Of Simple Pleasures’ though, which starts off almost exactly like the Gorillaz’s ‘Clint Eastwood’. Luckily Serge’s growing maturity as a songwriter saves the day with one of the best choruses he’s written so far – slow, steady, melodic and affecting. He no longer has to rely on shouty shock tactics about drugs and terrorists to get our attention – and Kasabian sound much more comfortable and confident for it.