Kasabian released their fourth album, Velociraptor!, last week. Chances are, if you’re in the United States, you had no idea A. That they released a new album, or B. That there's a band called Kasabian.
This is a band that has been criminally overlooked outside of Europe, where they routinely play stadiums and arenas, for the entirety of their career. The band’s debut self-titled album, released in 2004, contained the American “single” Club Foot, which received a modicum of airplay back then. Since that time, though, the band has been virtually invisible in this country, despite becoming more and more popular overseas.
Well, if you were unaware, Velociraptor! Continues the band’s progression from 2010’s West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and is a damn fine album to add to Kasabian’s repertoire.
Opener Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To acts as an introduction to the band for the uninitiated. A gong announces the start of the aural adventure, before Spanish-themed horns set the tone. Vocalist Tom Meighan’s recognizable voice kicks in after the ominous beginning, his drawl accentuated by melodic flourishes in the background. A horn and percussion break amps up the energy, before Meighan comes back to lift the song into its sprawling chorus, which would make a fantastic theme song for an adventure film in the Wild West.
Speaking of movie themes, every time I’ve heard Days Are Forgotten it just sounds like the perfect James Bond theme song. For anyone familiar with Club Foot, this song revisits the vocal blips that made that song notable, wile Meighan shouts his words with fury. When the anthemic chorus of Days are forgotten/ Now it’s all over/Simply forgotten kicks in, aided by Sergio Pizzorno’s cascading guitar frills, the song is elevated to “classic Kasabian” status. It’s really the type of song that best demonstrates the band’s signature sound, which routinely blends atmospherics, resonating guitar work and Meighan’s more than capable vocal chops.
The transition between that song and Goodbye Kiss, though, is a bit jarring. Trading in the atmospherics for a more relaxed, straightforward approach, the song shows the band’s ability to branch out a bit from their normal comfort zone. It’s a catchy tune.
Light acoustic guitar strumming starts off La Fee Verte, which finds Meighan lamenting a bout with the evil powers of absinthe. Oh green fairy/What’ve you done to me? I see Lucy in the sky/Telling me I’m high, he exclaims, before some lush instrumentation plays off his vocals melodically. The horns make their return on this track, which is one of the album’s highlights, due to the pleasing combination of Meighan’s voice and the song’s gorgeous melodies.
Title track Velociraptor! picks up the energy a bit, justifying the title’s exclamation point usage with its fast pace and immediacy. Meighan snarls, singing over himself while a flurry of keyboards, percussion, and guitars battle throughout.
The oddly titled Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm) is the type of Kasabian song that probably keeps them from the limelight in the United States: it’s too “out there”. Piano plucks, a slow rhythm, abstract lyrical themes and multiple tempo shifts make up the song. Meighan’s slow and drawn-out vocals add to the song’s weirdness, and help make it another of Velociraptor!’s standouts.
The electro-fied I Hear Voices would be a fitting soundtrack for a creepy late night drive, especially its use of twisted melodies and synthesizers.
Re-wired is another of the “classic Kasabian”- sounding tunes on the album; an engaging and building verse explodes into a sing-along chorus of Hit me! Harder! I’m getting re-wired/ I flip the switch that make you feel electric/Even! Faster! Than before/I'm gonna light 'em up with you that is among the best the band has ever made. Highlight, standout, whatever you want to call it, that’s what Re-Wired is. It has it all.
Man of Simple Pleasures slows down the energy again, bringing with it another spaghetti western-ready tune. Kasabian really know how to make songs that would fit perfectly in various types of movies; they tackle all kinds of exotic sounds and song accompaniments with barely any effort. That’s a gift.
As with most Kasabian records, there’s a heavy electronic thumper, and this album’s is Switchblade Smiles. After the club-ready synth takes over, dirty guitars come to the forefront, as well as Meighan’s cries of Can you feel it comin’?, making it another sprawling, anthemic adventure. It’s like club-rock for raver kids who don’t rave.
Album closer Neon Noon ends things on a somber note, calming down substantially after the fury of Switchblade Smiles. In it, the band do their best Britpop impression, but of course with a little synth. Despite its Britpop tendencies, the song doesn't adhere to one specific style, which again is the band's calling card.
Perhaps that’s partly to blame for Kasabian’s failure to really resonate on an international level; their songs defy classification. There’s techno, there’s some dance, there’s Britpop, there’s straightforward “rock”. It’s all there, but never consistently; their ever-changing styles and ability to challenge themselves multiple times on an album probably limit their appeal in this era of pigeonholing and small-mindedness. They're just too good.
That’s a damn shame, really, because Velociraptor! is a great album.
Let's all hope that they figure out a way to tour the United States in 2012, because they haven't been here in a LONG time.
If that happens, you owe it to yourself to make sure you’re there.
First and foremost, though, go find Velociraptor! and give it a spin. The band deserves your attention, United States. You've already ignored them for eight years. Enough is enough.