Kasabian aren’t easy to pin down, though they’ve certainly alluded to their hopes of being the next Oasis often enough that’s it’s not unreasonable to start there. Though their influences appear to differ, there are certainly plenty of similarities: Stadium-filling everyman appeal; shaggy mod-approved haircuts; wanton chest-thumping bravado. The major difference, of course, is that when Oasis dabbled in electronic sounds and loops, it wasn’t necessarily a natural fit. For Kasabian, it’s in their DNA.
Velociraptor! is the most consistent album of Kasabian’s four-LP canon. It may not attain the soaring highs found on each of their other full length releases. There are no terrace anthems on the thrilling scale of “Club Foot”, “Shoot the Runner” or “Vlad the Impaler”, though perhaps that’s not a bad thing, either. On previous albums, the best songs often served to demonstrate how thin the stew was at the bottom of the bowl. Here, the song which comes closest to scraping the sky, “Days are Forgotten”, nearly makes the grade, especially as it’s sort of a combination of “Club Foot” and “Processed Beats,” two of the band’s earliest hits.
The unabashedly romantic “Goodbye Kiss” seems tailor-made for the end credits of a Hugh Grant film (in this scenario Hugh Grant is still making films rather than helping bring down media empires). The song is terrific, even if Hugh Grant films rarely ever were. The largely electronic “I Hear Voices” runs along a comparatively – for Kasabian, anyway – mellow course, even if Tom Meighan’s vocals would likely have remained exactly the same if Serge Pizzorno’s guitars hit the corners like a train wreck.
It’s not all essential listening, though even the songs which fail to make a huge impression – the sluggish “Re-wired” and “Switchblade Smiles”, which sounds a bit like a Black Moth Super Rainbow cover falling down a stairwell – work well enough alongside the best bits. And that’s sort of what Kasabian are all about. Whether the bleeps and bloops in Kasabian’s future-retro numbers are either effective or incongruous is beside the point, because when they’re firing on all cylinders – as on exotic-lite 007-esque album opener “Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To” – the end result can be absolutely exhilarating, especially with producer Dan the Automator back for another run.
What the cover is meant to represent is anyone’s guess, because the notion of replicating Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik with John Bonham doesn’t make any sense at all. Yet Velociraptor! is a huge album of huge sounds and huge ideas in a digital age when downloading and the oft-overstated demise of the recording industry was supposed to have killed such grand gestures off. It’s retro and ridiculous; it’s music that sounds like what tight trousers strutting down the boulevard with maximum attitude look like, and it will likely sound even better in an arena filled with thousands upon thousands of partisan fanatics. Shouldn’t that be the very least we ask of our rock & roll?
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// Notes from the Road
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