Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kasabian - Velociraptor!

I first became aware of the band Kasabian, if not how to correctly pronounce their name, around 2007 or possibly early 2008. I recall seeing them perform one song, Empire, on one of them Jools Holland shows, and thinking “these guys have the look and the sound of a proper rock band.” I didn’t particularly pursue much of their stuff after that, though.

By 2009, though, it was rather difficult for any genuine lover of music to not sit or stand up and pay attention to them. A song called Fire was released by the band in advance of their 3rd album, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum. If you’re not familiar with the song then you may wish to stop reading this for a while and go seek it out. A dazzling chunk of catchy, quality rock; perhaps the greatest rock single of the last decade not to have Jack White involved with it somewhere. A hallmark of the quality of the song is that, in this disposable era, the power and audacious enjoyment of it has not diminished at all, despite rather heavy exposure – the Premier League have licensed it, thus football fans hear it several times every weekend.

The album which the song heralded, the mentioned West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, was one of the best albums released in the 21st Century. Between it and the Manic Street Preachers Journal For Plague Lovers, it made 2009 a golden year for music lovers. Time has been both kind and unkind to it, however – whereas the awesome opening and powerhouse songs at the end of the album stand the test of time, the “middle bit” gets skipped by me most plays. I mean it’s good, just not memorable. The truly memorable parts of the album, though, were so amazing that one wondered if and how they would one day follow it up.

The answer is here in 2011 in the form of their 4th album, the rather curiously titled Velociraptor! (more on that name later). With some trepidation it was that I approached the album, fearing that after releasing a classic album such as they had the next might be a disappointment. This was, after all, certainly the case with the Manic Street Preachers, who seemingly rush-released the “not bad” Postcards From A Young Man a year after Journal. Concerns and fears were, however, pretty much gone by the end of the first play.

The short version of my review of this album is that it is one of the best I have ever heard. You are advised to buy it and play it as soon as possible, and I shall try and post some links at the end. The rest of this review, then, shall more or less be one long love letter to the band and this album. You have, then, been warned if you proceed.

Album reviews can be a bit tricky. Often published ones in magazines tend to be little more than overviews, with sometimes half of the review being little more than the journalists’ opinion on the band or artist. Given the acres of space one has on the internet, there’s the opposite danger of basically blabbing absolutely every detail you can think of about the album, leaving the potential listener with little in the way of surprise or discovery. I shall attempt to show some restraint, then, and pluck but a few highlights for your consideration.

A good a place as any to start is track number five, which is the title track. The band have stated that the album (and presumably the song) are called Velociraptor because, as they hunted in packs of four, velociraptors were clearly the “rock and roll band of the dinosaur era.” I am sure it was in packs of 3 that they hunted in Jurassic Park, but no matter – there’s no faulting the logic. And there’s certainly no faulting the song either – a mental, under three minute blast of high octane rock that borrows heavily from Blondie’s One Way Or Another for the chorus – ‘velociraptor / he gonna find ya / gonna kill ya / gonna eat ya’. The only possible frame of reference I can think of to give you for how it sounds is that it’s as if someone took a time machine, gathered up Keith Moon, The Clash and Motorhead, brought from the future DVD equipment and a copy of Jurassic Park and deposited all of them in the studio where Fleetwood Mac recorded Rumours and left behind a mountain or two of cocaine. Yes, the song is that good.

If there’s a hint of borrowing from others in that song, the rest of the album reveals some very telling sources of inspiration. In a recent interview they stated that they wished to follow a Beatles career path, which is to say take what worked from the previous album and build on that for the next. This is certainly the case in general, but there’s also a wonderful tip of the hat to the celebrated Fab Four in the form of La Fee Verte. It’s a song that sounds like The Beatles, one that you could swear was produced by George Martin himself, yet doesn’t sound like a rip-off or “homage” to any one particular Beatles song. A gifted, interpretive take on the kind of thing Noel Gallagher just lifts outright, if you will. To make sure you “get” what they’re doing there’s a few obvious signposts for you, namely lyrics like “I saw Lucy in the sky” and “nothing is real”.

Kasabian have also said they are “very much” an avant-garde band. This comes across as loud and as clear as you like on I Hear Voices. I think “avant-garde” pretty much covers a song that sounds like Kraftwerk covering Depeche Mode who are covering Primal Scream doing a Kraftwerk cover. And yes I meant for it to read like that.

Otherwise, there is nothing but delights across the whole album. And since I mention delights, now is a good a time as any to mention Acid Turkish Bath. This song seems to have been created on the off chance that guitarist Sergio Pizzorno might one day fancy doing a Jimmy Page and play his guitar with a violin bow. No bad thing at all. And whilst Led Zeppelin has come to your mind, well, it is a great shame that most people will hear this album via CD or one of them (hopefully legal) download things. Two tracks in particular, Re-Wired and Switchblade Smiles, are so heavy in sound that they should only really be played on a slab of vinyl that is measured in units of kilograms and makes the stereo creak as you place it on the turntable. Yes, that heavy. as for the rest of the album, well, i will leave it to you to discover the genius of it. i've had it on repeat for a couple of days now and i've get to find a part i do not like.

Kasabian are, rightly, unapologetic in their quest to be the biggest band in the world. or the loudest at the least. Well, there’s no point being in the business if that’s not your aim, really. They’ve been going for 12 years now and they could well have just got to the point where their style is not so much compromised as it is just plain refined and perfected to unleash on the world they choose to dominate. This is a band we get to enjoy now and one that shall, hopefully, inspire the next generation to get out there and do it. Kasabian join Beady Eye in being just about the “last hope” for rock, looking at the disposable rubbish in the charts, if we are fortunate others shall soon join the party.

In regards of buying, amazon seems to be the place to go. At the time of this hitting the web, they had the standard version for all of £5.99, with the deluxe edition featuring a staggering looking live DVD going for just shy of £13.00. The standard version is all you really need and seems to be at a giveaway price; you may regret not getting the DVD at a later stage, though. Just wait until you hear how awesome it all is. i suspect the standard edition costs a bit less than usual at amazon for this week only as it's their "album of the week". if it goes to a higher price after Sunday 25 September, i can also direct you to the excellent record store who ship worldwide and have given me nothing but magnificent, first class service for some 6 or 7 years. where you buy it from isn't all that important, though, just make sure you do buy it!

there are a few, of course, who are somewhat dismissive of Kasabian, declaring them to be "bland" and "uninspired". i really struggle to understand how anyone can get to that conclusion, but fair enough i guess, each to their own. it's not like every great rock band has had universal love - plenty hate The Who, and i've never been all that keen on Led Zeppelin. Kasabian, however, very much works for me, thanks. as far as i can see, they walk the walk, talk the talk, and play the best vibes on offer at the moment. give them a chance!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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