Colorado songwriter mixes obscenity and emotional heft with huge pop melodies
Album Review: Kasabian - 'Velociraptor!'
They claim it will "change people's lives"
You can laugh, but statements like that are a sizeable part of why Kasabian’s existence is wholly necessary. In an age of safe, say-nothing musos concerned with how their every word will play to the blogorati, Tom and Serge stand tall as bullish, blowhard Rock Stars, unafraid to make silly proclamations with poker-straight faces. They may occasionally be more Tufnel and St Hubbins than Jagger and Richards, but they make for an unfailingly entertaining proposition nonetheless.
Calling their fourth album something so utterly ridiculous is simply an extension of that, right? Maybe. But there’s a viable metaphor there, too: in real life, velociraptors were nothing like the sleek, six-foot killing machines depicted in the Jurassic Park films. Instead, they were about the size of a small dog and covered in fabulous, brightly coloured feathers – the RuPaul of late-Cretaceous carnivores.
Similarly, Kasabian have never really been the knuckle-dragging lad-rock Neanderthals their detractors continually dismiss them as; they’ve always been a bit more adventurous and – dare we say it – smarter than anyone cares to give them credit for.
Smarter, but not exactly cerebral. Like all Kasabian albums, ‘Velociraptor!’ is at its most satisfying when the gloves come off and the outright silliness ensues. ‘Switchblade Smiles’, which squares up to the listener like a kebab-queue psychopath over glowering synths and ill-tempered ‘Immigrant Song’ drums, is a classic example of Kasabian operating at All Systems Gonzo.
The title track is another: a lean cut of brutish alt-riffage of the sort infrequently dabbled in by Blur, topped with a gleeful kandy-rave chorus and Tom’s brilliantly syncopated snarl of “Veloci-veloci-rap-TUH!” The exclamation mark is earned several times over on that line alone.
Generally speaking, however, the songs on ‘Velociraptor!’ are more structurally straightforward than those of its predecessor. ‘West Ryder...’ was a commercial success almost in spite of itself, but in times like these, Kasabian can ill afford to take the piss. Ergo, ‘Let’s Roll Like We Used To’ is vintage ’60s sophisto-pop so classicist it could almost be a Last Shadow Puppets song; the neo-Kinksian ‘Man Of Simple Pleasures’ is a variation on a theme established with ‘West Ryder...’’s ‘Thick As Thieves’; even the Serge-sung ‘La Fée Verte’ (it’s pretentious for ‘The Green Fairy’), for all its talk of taking us “Down below, where insects run the show”, is basically an accomplished piece of White Album mimicry. They’re fine songs, and not unambitious in their own way, but they’re a little more orthodox than you might expect.
It’s the skewed-weird production of Dan The Automator, not to mention the little filmic flourishes – gong-bashing, Arabian strings, the subtle, Morricone-esque motifs – which (presumably) come courtesy of Serge, that keeps everything just unpredictable enough. The insistent, Krautrock-y synthesiser riff (and the insistent, unintentionally hilarious ad-lib of “You got the groove!”) that underpins ‘I Hear Voices’ is terrific, while the garbled psychotic dribblings placed over the run-out of ‘Days Are Forgotten’ totally make the song. Chewing on monkey brains indeed, boys.
Back in June, Tom Meighan pricelessly declared that ‘Velociraptor!’ “will change people’s lives”. It’s an admirable, characteristically old-school sentiment, but is it also too tall an order? Possibly. This is an album with much to love about it, but it falls just short of their real game-changer, ‘West Ryder...’. There’s no shame in that, though, and as long as they’re around, Serge Pizzorno’s metaphor for velociraptors being “the rock’n’roll band of the dinosaurs” is in no danger of extending to their extinction. Barry Nicolson
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