#8 – Velociraptor! by Kasabian

Label:  Sony Music

Released:  19-Sep-2011

Artist’s Website:  www.kasabian.co.uk

Britain’s kings of danceable rock hurl new sonic textures into the kitchen sink.  Greatness ensues.

Kasabian is a band from Leicester, UK that is huge back in their old stomping grounds but almost invisible in North America.  Despite the universality of well-written rock music, it’s strange how some bands are able to cross over into other markets and others just don’t translate across oceans.

There is nothing uniquely British about Kasabian.  True, they borrow from many types of UK rock, most prominently Beatles and Stones melodies and the beat-heavy Manchester rhythms of Stone Roses and Primal Scream.  But as equal-opportunity thieves, they also knick ideas and rhythms from Motown, blues, funk and other distinctly American idioms.  Maybe it comes down to a shortfall of record company backing or relentless touring.

Those who don’t keep an ear tuned into what’s happening in the UK are missing out on a very exciting band.  Kasabian have created a niche for themselves over the last decade via four well-regarded albums.  Early singles like “Club Foot”,  “Processed Beats” and “Empire” put them on the map with a seamless hybrid of electronic beats, buzz-saw programming, big guitars and swaggering vocals.  The music was simultaneously rocking and danceable.  Comparisons to Oasis and Chemical Brothers were inevitable, but ultimately a little lazy since Kasabian smartly sneaked a few other influences into the mix.

Kasabian’s 2009 album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum toned down the over-the-top Oasis-style swagger and replaced it with a kitchen-sink approach to sounds and textures.  The record was less crammed full of beats than its predecessors and certainly much weirder (in a good way).  Every four-on-the-floor rocker was juxtaposed with a trippy electronic Kraftwerk-referencing dreamscape.  The single “Vlad the Impaler” was just insane, a boot-stomper that would make Primal Scream proud but with programmed squiggles and rhythmic left turns that must be heard to be believed.

And so it continues with Kasabian’s new record.  Velociraptor! uses the blueprint of West Ryder as a jumping-off point and mines even more diverse melodies and rhythms.  “Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To” is a paean to youth, but somehow manages to weave a gong, hand claps, mariachi horns, and ‘60s spy movie melodies into something greater than the sum of its parts.  “Days are Forgotten” is next up on the Kasabian jukebox; this time the rhythm section locks into a groove while layers of vaguely Arabic vocals and lithe guitar lines intertwine over the top.

Things start to get truly strange and beautiful with “La Fee Verte”, which sounds like a modern take on The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”, complete with shifting time signatures on the bridge.  But lest you get too comfortable with this groove, the title track bursts out of the speakers with walls of synth programming, furious beats, and a completely silly and hilarious lyric about dinosaurs.  And then it’s right back into the unexpected when “Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm)” explores Middle Eastern sonic textures.  Turn left yet again to find the simple keyboard motif and basic beat of “I Hear Voices”.

The back half of the record is anchored by single “Re-Wired”, a slow-building rocker with a huge break-beat chorus.  “Man of Simple Pleasures” sounds like Oasis cherry-picking the Kinks’ songbook, with a hypnotically circular and sneakily English melody.  Closing track “Neon Noon” is a chilled-out (at least by manic Kasabian standards) meditation on the passage of time.  It’s a welcome comedown after the dazzling kaleidoscope of influences on display throughout Velociraptor!.

Kasabian may always be a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and may never “break America”, but their fans will find much to enjoy on this album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjsrH_cnK7g

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