Written 21st September 2011
Kasabian – Velociraptor!
Right today’s album review comes from a band with a now strong, core army of followers, following the release of their past 3 albums, and what with some-what being ‘best-mates’ with Oasis on recent tours, Kasabian are now back with the release of their 4th album this week ‘Velociraptor!’ Now the band came onto the scene around 2003/04 with the release of their self-titled album, and early singles ‘Club Foot’, ‘L.S.F.’, ‘Processed Beats’ and ‘Cutt Off’ were making an immediate early impact on the heart of the UK Indie scene. It was then in 2006 with the release of the first single ‘Empire’, from the forth-coming 2nd album of the same title, that the band really started to gain National recognition and air-play, and along with the accompanying video for the single portraying a march of an army into battle (you can check out the video for ‘Empire’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVTEqG9enEY&ob=av2e), it was at this point really that the band started developing an army of devoted followers themselves.
With anticipation high, their 2nd album ‘Empire’ was released and was met with the majority of critical acclaim all-round, establishing the band as one of the fully-fledged ‘big hitters’ now on the Indie scene and the record was also well received by long-time followers of the band. For me this was their best album to-date featuring strong, catchy-guitar tracks such as ‘Shoot the Runner’ and ‘Me Plus One’, to more electronic efforts ‘Seek and Destroy’ and my personal favourite track ‘Stuntman’, lest forgetting epic closing track ‘The Doberman’. 2009 saw the release of the crazily-titled album ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’, which I’m not going to cover in too much detail here as I previously reviewed the album in full in Blog #3 of Flynndie Reviews in you would prefer to read up on that in more detail, but it was safe to say the band delivered another solid and decent guitar record, but in my opinion it just fell somewhat short of the heights reached with previous album ‘Empire’.
So fast-forward to 2011 and the band are back with their latest effort ‘Velociraptor!’ Things get underway with opener ‘Let’s Roll Just Like we used to’ and what better way to open an album than with the sound of a Gong?! Queue some weird muttering, echo sounds and trumpets before the track gets into full swing with literally a 60’s-sounding, jazz-swing-vibe about it accompanied by ‘buzzing’ guitars. This whole track has a very retro feel about and in all honesty is quite a very different sound we’re used to hearing from Kasabian. However, I really think this is a very decent opening number and great way to start off the record. Next we have recent single ‘Days are Forgotten’, which we got sneak previews of over the summer with this season’s Sky Sports Premier League advert, which featured the band losing to a Sky Sports team in the final of a five-a-side tournament (clearly this advert is inaccurate though, as there is no way guitarist Serge Pizzorno would be on a losing side with skills like these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kke2usNl4I0&feature=related). Back to the track it-self and this is more in the mould of ‘old-school’ Kasabian with distinctive vocals from Tom Meighan and a big sing-along chorus making this an easily accessible track indeed. I liked this when I first heard it and that is still very much the case now.
Things slow down a bit with 3rd track ‘Goodbye Kiss’, an acoustic ballad which coasts along pleasantly and features another catchy, sing-a-long chorus, it’s another decent track and keeps the album flowing nicely. Things get more psychedelic with ‘La Fée Verte’, or roughly translated, ‘The Green Fairy’, featuring Serge on vocal duties this time around. Another mellower, stripped down affair here, this track certainly wouldn’t be out of place on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album and is again very different territory for Kasabian, but again another track the band pull-off with comfortable aplomb. Next follows title-track ‘Velociraptor!’ which speeds along with buzzing guitars and then features a marmite-like (you’ll either love it or hate it!) chorus of Tom reaching a higher-pitch, subjecting features of the song-titles dinosaur of choice. For me this is the first track on the album I’ve struggled to get into, but admittedly I’ve heard a ‘live’ version of the track and it sounded a lot better performed ‘live’ than I think it does on the record in my opinion. ‘Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm)’ is another more psychedelic affair (I mean how could it not be with a title like that?!) The track slowly drifts along cleverly creating a Turkish-folk vibe about it with possibly the most distinct percussion heard on the album yet from drummer Ian Matthews, it’s another catchy and in this case cleverly worked track, and another that I liked upon first listen and I am still currently finding new facets that add to the track with each subsequent listen.
Track 7 ‘I Hear Voices’ marks the first real distinctive ‘electronic’ Kasabian track on the album, a somewhat Kasabian trademark sound for some of their earlier material from their first two albums. With a nice 80’s sounding synth-loop preceding it’s verse and through the heart of its chorus this is another likable track albeit a very much mellower side of Kasabian we don’t too often see from them. ‘Re-Wired’ is very much an old-school guitar-sounding track by the band again, with very clear and distinct vocals from Tom and another sing-a-long chorus but again all at a bit more of a laid-back tempo than Kasabian albums of old. Opening with an infections guitar-lick ‘Man of Simple Pleasures’ is another assured, confident effort from the band again featuring some really great sounding backing percussion by Matthews, and with its infectious opening riff featuring throughout as the track casually swaggers nicely in its place on the album. Reverting back to the very electronic sound from ‘I Hear Voices’, penultimate track ‘Switchblade Smiles’ really goes back to an early Kasabian sound steadily building with synths and ‘disturbed’ cries from Serge, before a dirty-guitar riff assaults the verses through the track, this is certainly a track you would expect to hear coming on while being kicked out of a nightclub at 4am! ‘Neon Noon’ is the slowed down ballad that closes the album, with Serge on acoustic-guitar and vocal duties here, before the backing synths kick-in about 2 minutes into the track. It’s again another track that has a bit of a Beatles-vibe about it in my opinion, it’s alright for a closing track, but I think the band will always struggle to top ‘The Doberman’ the closing track from their 2nd album ‘Empire’.
So overall I feel this is possibly the most ‘experimental’ Kasabian album to date and the band certainly flirt with different sounds throughout this album, from a retro-opening Jazz-fused track, to familiar loud sounding Kasabian guitar tracks, to psychedelic, mellower efforts and the two more ‘electronic’ tracks thrown in, there is certainly plenty of different sounds on offer on the plate for the listener to digest! However, I think the record overall holds well together, it’s taken me quite a few good listens to get into the album but with each subsequent listen I finding myself enjoying the songs more and noticing more of the hidden-depths some of the tracks have that are easily overlooked upon first few listens. I commend the band for their efforts to try out new sounds, without pushing away from their distinct sound that has gained them an army of devoted fans in the first place; however, I don’t feel this album quite reaches the heady-heights set by ‘Empire’, but does follow on nicely from where ‘West Pauper Ryder Lunatic Asylum’ left off and I’m going to award this album 8 Extinct Dinosaurs out of 10. It’s quite a tricky album to get into upon your first couple of listens, but persist with it and you’ll find yourself appreciating the tracks more and the efforts the band have gone to with this album! It will be interesting to see what direction the band takes next…….
Track 1 ‘Let’s Roll Just Like we used to’
Track 2 'Days are Forgotten'
Track 10 'Switchblade Smiles'