29 September 2011

Kasabian: "Velociraptor!"

So, you are on the verge of international success, go into the studio to record your fourth album, what do you do? Do more of the same, the expected? Take your music in a different direction? Let the hype-machine dictate what your next move should be? What I can say is that Kasabian has always impressed me, and considering that they have a heavy dose of (neo-)psychedelia (which I typically opt against), says a lot to me about the band’s ability to write alluring music. This could not be truer of their paleontological named fourth album, “Velociraptor!” (16 September 2011 in the UK, 27 September 2011 in the USA), but there is so much more at work on this album than ever before. Kasabian is one of those bands that really devotes an excruciating amount of attention to every little detail; there is not a single sound or note or word that was not belabored or carefully thought out. This is not about genre or some label; rather Kasabian is inviting you into a world of nuances that thread intriguing songs.

The lead single of the album is “Switchblade Smiles” – perhaps not the obvious single on the album, but definitely the best choice. This is the kind of song that is hard to define, but what Kasabian accomplishes with the single is set the tone for the expectations: this is not “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” (2009); this is something new. With that said, I do not want to imply that “Velociraptor!” is a complete departure from what they have done in the past; the best way to think about the album is that Kasabian threw all of their old tricks into a bag, used them in new combinations, and added a few new flairs for effect. From the expected indie tropes and silly background vocals, to a bit of Spanish Flameco and hip-hop, “Velociraptor!” is an ingenious album.

I am stuck on two tracks, the first of which is “Days Are Forgotten.” Tom Meighan sings, “Cos I’m taking back what’s mine, I am taking back the time. You may call it suicide, but I’m being born again… I’m waiting.” Cryptic? Yes, but there is a bit of universal truth in song when later Meighan sings, “I am not here, I’m just a silhouette you will never, ever, ever forget. Days, days are forgotten, now it’s all over. Simply forgotten how to disappear.” Suicide is not just the physical act of killing oneself, but also the act of forcing yourself to be forgotten, just as days become so, to become spiritually or socially non-existent. The song, though, has some perverse humor in it to counterbalance the headiness: “You was at home chewing on monkey brains.” (If you are thinking scrotum and testicles, you are right.) The other track I am stuck on is “Re-Wired.” This is one of these tracks that I just do not have much, if anything, to say about other than it works. It really works! This is the most infectious moment of the album, closer to new wave than any other song on the album.

The breath-taking, heartstring pulling moment of the album comes early on, in the third track, “Goodbye Kiss”: “Doomed from the start, we met with a goodbye kiss…” But it is not the lyrics that really get you; the strumming acoustic guitar, string keys, and vocal melody are as emotional as it comes. When Meighan sings, “I hope someday that we will meet again,” it is the music, not the lyrics, which you are reacting to. The most eclectic moment of the album is “Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm).” Let all the allusions come to mind about Turkish baths…. They all conventionally co-exist in this song set to a subtle psychedelic arrangement and arabesque keys. And the album even has an unexpected, out-of-the-box anthem: “Man of Simple Pleasures”: “With dyslexic eyes I’m seeing very clearly. "By the way, I’m on my way, but all of my life, I’ve been treated like a fool. But I’m no one’s fool.”

I have done my best to curve my ire at the consistent comparisons that Kasabian gets with one nameless Manchester band. Those are lazy, hackneyed, and misleading comparisons. Like many other bands, Kasabian has been influenced by some of the UK’s most renowned acts – and lately even by some of the current indie pop trends. And this is when I have to return to the album’s title and the concept of nuances. Velociraptors were small dinosaurs (usually under seven feet), with large heads, apparently with plumage. This is a perfect metaphor for the album: human-size, heady references to the past, garnished in feather… those feathers being the nuances, the details that make this album very distinct. If Kasabian is groundbreaking, it is in their ability to continuously use (boring) overused musical references to create something new, relevant, urgent, and infectious. The devil is in the details, those nuances, and Kasabian can tempt away.

Track Listing:
1. Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To
2. Days Are Forgotten
3. Goodbye Kiss
4. La Fée Verte
5. Velociraptor!
6. Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm)
7. I Hear Voices
8. Re-wired
9. Man of Simple Pleasures
10. Switchblade Smiles
11. Neon Noon

Keep up with Kasabian at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is Kasabian’s video for “Switchblade Smiles” from the KasabianVEVO Channel.

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