Thursday, 22 September 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #18: Kasabian - Velociraptor!

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:, 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: 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'


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #17: Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind of Fix

Written 7th September 2011:

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix

So today’s album review comes from young Indie ‘jump-starts’, Bombay Bicycle Club, with the release of their recent 3rd album ‘A Different Kind of Fix’. Before digging into the album itself and breaking it-down track-by-track let’s just have a brief summary of the band because this is already their 3rd album since 2009, and it’s very much a rarity these days to find a band that will release 3 albums worth of material in the short-space of 3 years!

So I first discovered Bombay Bicycle Club from air-plays of early singles ‘Always Like This’ and ‘Dust on the Ground’ on X-FM before deciding to go out and buy their debut album ‘I had the blues but shook them loose’. I found myself quickly en-captured by lead-singer’s Jack Steadman’s distinct voice and this altogether fun, frantic, pogoing Indie record as a whole, enjoying tracks such as ‘Evening/Morning’, ‘Dust on the Ground’ ‘The Hill’ and, in particular, my two favourite tracks from the album ‘Autumn’ and ‘What If’. I gave the album plenty of listens when I first got hold off it and it was to my delight, that while I was still caught up with the record, the band had already been busy writing, recording and releasing their second album ‘Flaws’.

This follow-up album took somewhat of a different direction to their debut record, with a very much stripped-down, laid-back and mellow acoustic approach to it, which may have surprised some and even in some cases, stunned listeners who enjoyed the first album, with such a change of direction for their 2nd record, however, I still thought it was a great album to listen to with some very strong, heart-felt written tracks on it, for those times when you’re in a reflective mood I guess.

So moving onto the band’s 2011 release and their 3rd album in as many years, ‘A Different Kind of Fix’, things get underway with opening track ‘How can you swallow so much sleep?’, which opens with gentle acoustic guitar-picking, that certainly would not have been out of place on the band’s previous album ‘Flaws’, but as bass, from Ed Nash, starts to accompany guitar, this track starts to get into full swing after about a minute or so into it and we see early indications of what I can only describe as ‘groovy’ feel that this record has in spades throughout. ‘Bad Timing’ follows and with its opening electric guitar shows the band means business right away on this track. The track flows along nicely and was one of the more instant tracks on the album for me on first few listens and is still a firm favourite of mine, with the track finishing with the band rocking out on it. This is certainly a track more guitar-heavy than those found previously on ‘Flaws’. Third track ‘Your Eyes’ sets a more serene pace again for the record, after the angular guitars of the last track and features what I would describe as a charming, ‘woodpecker-like’ sound on percussion from drummer Suren de Saram throughout it, while guitarist Jamie MacColl loops a catchy-guitar riff over the track, with the song finishing with dreamy-like vocals from Jack, it’s probably the most poppy track on the album so far.

‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ takes us on another easy-listening stroll, with synths gently pushing the track along and again softly sung lyrics from Jack accompanying it, with the 2nd verse onwards being backed by some jazz-style guitar making this another easily accessible track to the listener. With a click of Suren’s drum sticks ‘Take the right one’ again builds a steady pace for the album, but with this record we’re gently flowing through the gears rather than doing 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds. The track features a rather catchy bass-line pulsing through it and certainly would not be found out of place from a Stones Roses gig from the early 90’s which would be a great complement to it indeed. Next we have the first released single from the record ‘Shuffle’, featuring a cleverly structured, hip-hop-like piano. Yes I did just write that! When I first heard this song, I was taken aback by how different it sounded to anything I had heard before, which is refreshing for a start, but the biggest complement to this track is how much of a grower it becomes on subsequent listens. It’s a very distinctive track and certainly a standout choice for opening single from the album.

‘Beggars’ is probably my most favourite track on the album. Another track that opens with the familiar Bombay Bicycle Club style of gentle guitar-picking, it soon builds into an epic song that just effortless coasts along, while simply making the ‘hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand‘ with it’s cleverly structured combination of rhythm and percussion throughout being interspersed by the same guitar-picking that opens the song. With some more ‘wooden-style’ clicking-like percussion buzzing through it, track 8 ‘Leave It’ also carefully balances comfortably flowing verses with another big sing-a-long chorus from Jack and backing vocals from Lucy Rose whose charming backing vocal’s also features throughout the record. This is again another instant and likeable track in my opinion, possibly with the catchiest percussion on the album thus far. ‘Fracture’ has the distant feeling acoustic guitar and vocals from Jack which were again a trademark of 2nd album ‘Flaws’. One of the slower tracks on the record it features quite a duet throughout by Jack and Lucy, with again quite ‘baggy’ guitar through it that again reminds me of the type of sound the Stone Roses were famed for. ‘What you want’ opens with a funky bass-line, that reminded me of a style that one of my all-time favourite bands, Idlewild, would tend to use a lot on some of their earlier records. The track builds and has quite an 80’s vibe to it with its jangly-guitar and bass-line pulsing through it, while another distant-type effect is used on Jack’s vocals accompanied with haunting-like synths in the background, this is another great track.

With piano and a military-march percussion, entwined with that ‘woodpecker’ like sound previously heard on ‘Your Eyes’ penultimate track ‘Favourite Day’ gently flows along again as the album is slowly beginning to effortlessly unwind to the listener, before reaching final track ‘Still’. Now I’m of the opinion that the first two Bombay Bicycle Club albums both featured a big acoustic ballad as the closing track for each album and ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ is no different. A very slowly-drawn haunting piano ballad features this time round and is very much of a sound of Radiohead from their ‘Amnesiac’ album. I would defy anybody not to be quite moved on first hearing this particular track and I’m still currently trying to work out if Jack actually holds the note around the one minute mark by his voice alone or whether a studio affect was used?! This is simply put an astounding track, but one you may care to listen to in your own space and time.

As again as you can most likely tell from this review I’m quite enthusiastic of this latest release from Bombay Bicycle Club but how do I feel it holds up after their first two albums, both of which I also enjoyed? Well as I mentioned in my third paragraph of this review, the first album was a fun, frantic Indie record in comparison to its low-fi, stripped down acoustic follow up. This record for me perfectly merges both styles the band have previously shown on those two records and more importantly get’s the balance of the two styles just about right, certainly no-mean feat in itself.

I read in a previous interview with Jack Steadman that the theme, direction and title of this album was particularly about addictions and for me personally I’ve actually found myself very hooked on this record in the first two weeks since its release which is one of the biggest complements I can pay it for the time-being. While I don’t think this record is an album that would quite reach the echelons of ‘All-Time Favourite Lists’ (which let’s face it are made up to provoke opinions anyway), this is certainly for me a strong contender when it comes to album of the year for 2011. There are certainly more than a few good tracks on this record and it they all flow sublimely well collectively, so I’m going to give this 9 ‘Different Fixes’ out of 10. This for me is the best album the band have released yet (and the first two were great anyway), so take that as high praise indeed! My only regret is that I didn’t manage to get hold of a ticket for their gig at Brixton Academy on the 19th October, which I imagine is going to be one hell of a gig before the band take a very well deserved break in my opinion!

Track 3 ‘Your Eyes’

Track 6 'Shuffle'

Track 7 'Beggars'

Always in need of a fix