Album Review: Kasabian – Velociraptor!

Meet Kasabian 2.0: a band looking to become something more than just rock'n'roll punch-out artists...
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Meet Kasabian 2.0: a band looking to become something more than just rock'n'roll punch-out artists...

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“In a lot of ways, I feel like I was not even there,” Sergio Pizzorno says of recording Velociraptor!. “A spirit came down and took over the job,” he concludes, with a quote you can almost hear rolling off the tongue of Nigel Tufnel.

That's what always made Kasabian such an attractive proposition to me: they have no idea just how daft they look and sound. There's no pretence about them, just blind faith in their rock'n'roll doctrine. Serge, this lanky indie-pirate who can't sing and is far from an accomplished guitarist, but looks the part, talks a good game and so somehow gets away with it; frontman Tom Meighan twitching around in front of him onstage like an ADHD Mick Jagger, he can barely string a sentence together offstage but sings the shit out of the songs they play; songs with meretricious titles, full of nonsensical lyrics and hooks, big fuck-off hooks.

They're the musical equivalent of a frenzied fist-fight: dumb and direct, but devastatingly effective. And pugilism is an art form as laudable as any other; which is why I was looking forward to righting the sneers and lazy comparisons to Oasis and even lazier lad-rock label most critics have branded Velociraptor! with. I expected to fill this page with the praise their previous three albums warranted. But I can't.

The first time I listened to it I skipped two, maybe three songs halfway through. I couldn't find this album's Club Foot, Shoot the Runner or Vlad the Impaler – that spine-shaking right-hook that demands my attention.

Days Are Forgotten is one of three comparable tunes, a wild Pizzorno-howl wrapped around a baggy, blues riff, babbling outro and my favourite lyric on the whole album: “You were sat home chewing on monkey brains.” With a neck-breaking to nod to speed-era Primal Scream, Switchblade Smiles – “they go on for miles” – represents another attempt at a big-hitter, but it feels disjointed by arcing in and out of trippy space rock. Re-wired is clearly designed to induce mass stadium-sing-a-longs, and is none the worse for that, but its impotent compared to earlier work in the same vein.

Consider it the first album from Kasabian 2.0: a band looking to become something more than rock'n'roll punch-out artists.

Album opener Let's Roll Just Like We Used To suggests the band have been listening to Scott Walker records – you could even imagine it as a Bond theme – but it fails to dazzle. The '60s pastiches continue to varying degrees of mediocrity with the Beatles-aping La Fée Verte, the plodding Man of Simple Pleasures and ballad Goodbye Kiss.

The title track is by far the most bizarre moment on the whole album. “Velociraptor / He gonna find ya / He gonna kill / He gonna eat ya,” snarls Meighan over a tune that wouldn't sound out of place as the soundtrack to a bonus level on some archaic computer game. I can't decide whether it's amazing or fucking awful.

Stand-out track Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From the Storm) showcases both Serge's appreciation for the 13th Floor Elevators and Dan the Automator's deft production skills, featuring theatrical strings, fizzing electronic effects and mad, chanting backing vocals. The lyrics are shite, but, like much of Kasabian's best work, that doesn't seem to matter. I Hear Voices is similar, but much less effective.

Velociraptor! isn't a bad album, but it is Kasabian's weakest. They're a band clearly eager to evolve, but haven't quite succeeded in moulding the various influences that run through this album into something definitively their own. Consider it the first album from Kasabian 2.0: a band in transition, looking to become something more than rock'n'roll punch-out artists. And their preposterous self-confidence might just be enough to see them succeed.

Anyway, Serge, that title...

“Velociraptors used to hunt in packs of four,” he explained in a recent interview. “They were the rock’n’roll band of the dinosaurs.” Beat that Tufnel.

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

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