Kasabian : Sheffield Leadmill/Leeds Blank Canvas, Fri/Sat, October 15-16
Crash, riff, squelch, snarl: London might be burning but Leicester's finest are kicking up a real inferno up north…
OCTOBER 15, 9.45PM
Deified by a doomy drone of Depeche Mode synths, silhouetted in a supernova of swirling star-lights, a gobby young rock singer – clad in sunglasses and stripy shirt like the coolest French onion-seller on Earth, head stuffed solid with drugs – swaggers to the front of the stage like his bollocks are made of Ming porcelain.
A thunderous bass riff pounds out, a drummer is suddenly possessed by the fiery demon of ‘the funk’ and the crowd – swept along on an E-rushing typhoon of Good Vibes – levitates three feet off the floor as the singer gives them an ‘Oo’s-’avin-eeet?’ snarl while treading an invisible Stairmaster. The first song includes the tribal wail of, “Music is my SO-WUUUUUULLLL!!!”
OK, spot quiz: which band are we watching, where and when? You: the ageing baggy veteran at the back. Mondays, Haçienda, ’88? Good guess, but way off. You: with the beads, bowl-cut and psychotic flashbacks. Roses, Spike Island, 1990? Close, but no jazz cigar. How about the swastika-eyed terrorist-chic kids at the front, plotting a guerrilla raid on the backstage rider? The Scream, Victoria Park, ’97? Nah, this singer’s standing up unassisted. And finally, you: the yodeling lager monster in the vomit-encrusted Man City shirt. Oasis, Knebworth, ’96? Nah, you could belch in their faces from here.
The correct answer, of course, is all four and more. While the priapic scene-fetishists of London have been frantically hyping the miniscule grains of wheat from the cubic tonnage of chaff over in Whitechapel, Leicester’s ’Tood Terrorists and honourary Masters of the Madchester Arts Kasabian have quietly ascended an ancient pagan line of groovemungous northern rock bands that stretches back to prehistoric times; back when Burnage was nothing but sweeping savannah; when neanderthal ape-god Ianus Brownus first called the mammoths to mate; while Renius Beaniehattus beat out a feasting dance on the skulls of dead antelope.
You don’t mine this rich Mancunian seam to such arena-quaking effect without intense study, however, and tonight Kasabian prove themselves expert archaeologists of the subterranean groove. Bursting from the tinny cocoons of their recorded versions to become warehouse-sized rave behemoths, ‘Cutt Off’ combines Oasis mob-chanting with Roses throb-bass. ‘Reason Is Treason’ mires the Primals’ political sloganeering (“K! I! L! L!”) in a Joy Division death dance and ‘Club Foot’ is so ‘Exterminator’ it should have its vowels surgically removed for its own safety.
Singer Tom Meighan embodies all the apeish arrogance of Liam, the shamanic shuffling of Shaun and the beatific bounce of Bez. And in the grand tradition of such mouthy Manc muppet heroes, Tom’s mad fer a Mani-esque rant or 12.
“It’s been magnificent man,” he blabbers excitedly in the steam of the Leadmill dressing room, after a lengthy, NME-induced post-gig diatribe against the evils of the monarchy. “We played Warrington the other night; the first time in our lives we’d played to a balcony. And to see people standing on the balcony giving it this (mimes rave salute). We’re lookin’ around at the size of these venues and we’re laughing to ourselves! We still think we’re gonna be playin’ to 80 people! I find it all astounding! It’s wonderful, mate; it’s a wonderful thing to be doing with your life. It’s such a satisfying feeling to see these people get a buzz off you. It’s complete satisfaction. You can’t get any higher.”
“You see what it does to people and the reaction,” says scarecrow-hatted guitarist Serge Pizzorno ominously. “It’s a fuckin’ powerful thing.”
OCTOBER 16, 9.45PM
“You off your faces or what?” leers Tom, looking around at the size of the pupils in a rammed Leeds Black Canvas and laughing. Then the brutal electro clash of B-side ‘55’ blows the bar to Barnsley, the crowd go as wild with ecstasy as the pig pet of Rebecca Loos and so begins Lesson Two of Kasabian’s nu-baggy masterclass: Move It On Up.
Y’see, while Kasabian’s historical tracings are impeccable, it’s their own scribbled footnotes that re-imagine the dark end of dance-rock. Here’s a band who – unlike their old baggy heroes – didn’t stumble over the electro-indie Holy Grail thanks to a roped-in DJ; they’ve been au fait with both the filthy squelch and the fervent riff right from the off.
So their thrust for The Future is uniquely eclectic; they leap from the siren-strewn rock riot of ‘The Nightworkers’, with its guitars like mutant warbots annihilating a Buzzcocks gig, to the Goa-via-Glasgow culture mash of ‘Processed Beats’. One minute (on ‘Butcher Blues’) they’re Spiritualized in a spliff haze, the next (on the mighty ‘LSF’) they’re Air beating seven shades of lightly synthesized shit out of ‘Step On’.
There are minor gripes – the occasional Kula Shaker flashback, the suspicion that their barks of, “Terrorists on a day of rest” are as hollow as Eggsy’s head, the need for just a couple more tunes – but not since Primal Scream swapped their pedal steels for alien death rays has a band had so much brain behind the bluster. This is dark, degraded drug music yet to be darkly degraded by drugs, and long may it simmer.