Review Summary: Lucy in the sky told Kasabian to get high and head east.
With the implosion of Oasis and The Libertines, it is reassuring to know that one English quartet is still around to brighten up our day with their self-promotion. I mean, why should anyone wait for others to hype their band, when they could do it themselves? Over the course of their decade long existence, Kasabian have apparently saved rock’n’roll, saved dance music and even saved English music in general. They have done so by releasing the greatest album ever... Before superseding it with their own follow-up. Loved by many, and hated by many, many more, the group’s boasting too often masks their talent, since their best work is often a refreshing, genre-bending combination of psychedelic electro-rock. Unfortunately, all these characteristics have previously resulted in over-ambitious experimentation clogging their releases with filler, and leading to the label of being a singles band... And when their fourth LP ‘Velociraptor!’ opens with the striking of a giant gong and some trumpets, it is difficult to think that much has changed in the world of Kasabian. I think we are supposed to bow down and hail our saviors once more!
What comes next however is something approaching restraint; a word not usually associated with Kasabian. More than anything, what the album's first three tracks lay the foundation for, is a concerted focus on melody. ‘Velociraptor!’ is more Beatles than Oasis, with retro 60s harmonies being so prevalent that you can almost see the black & white video of a future single having the band in mop-tops mocking the famous Liverpudlians. “Lucy in the sky” is even quoted on ‘La Fee Verte’, a tune where the quartet’s psychedelic leanings run rampant. Of course, this is Kasabian and experimentation is bound to exist. This time around, they at least attempt to integrate a sense of cohesion with many tracks incorporating strings, and even more displaying Eastern flourishes. In fact, so common are the latter, that you half expect Omar Sharif to make a cameo appearance! As per usual, the results are mixed, with the trippy Arabian stomp of six minute centrepiece ‘Acid Turkish Bath’ likely to be most divisive.
While the spotlight on melody is value-adding, it does come at a cost as the album progresses through its 51 minute duration. Namely, that it is not the strength of lead vocalist Tom Meighan, whose cocksure drawl is better suited to the band’s trademark energy which has been mostly sapped here. This results in ‘Velociraptor!’ occasionally falling too close to mid-tempo indifference; another word not usually associated with Kasabian. The glitchy electronica of lead single ‘Switchblade Smiles’ comes closest to recalling the band’s debut LP, but feels out of place and only makes you want to revisit ‘Reason Is Treason’. Ditto for the effective synth line of the almost new-wave like ‘I Hear Voices’, while the title track is the most energetic - and somehow likeable - cut in spite of how nonsensical it is. Also as per usual, Kasabian do strike gold at least once, with ‘Re-Wired’ melding their varying influences into an appealing tune that has energy, swagger and the type of catchiness that will infiltrate your mind. Conversely, closer ‘Neon Noon’ attempts something similar in a slow-burning package, but only succeeds in putting listeners to sleep.
The phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is an apt one to describe the progression which Kasabian have made from album to album. One would be hard-pressed to suggest that they have done much recycling over their career, yet the result always ends up around the same mark. With Dan the Automator’s idiosyncratic production and ambitious head songwriter Serge Pizzorno displaying his usual liking for the weird and wacky, “consistency” is unlikely to enter Kasabian’s vocabulary any time soon. So while ‘Velociraptor!’ takes us to a few different destinations than we may have expected, it is ultimately going to elicit the same divisive response which its three predecessors did. And when weighing the band’s discography up for the sake of comparison, it is unfortunately doubtful that the peaks of ‘Velociraptor!’ will stand the test of time as much as a ‘Club Foot’, ‘Empire’ or ‘Fire’.
Recommended Tracks: Re-Wired, Days Are Forgotten & Goodbye Kiss.