If you happen to bring up Kasabian in conversation, the reaction you get will no doubt vary wildly depending on who you’re talking to – you may be disowned for even mentioning them, receive an admission that they’re a guilty pleasure, or be met with an over-enthusiastic reaction along the lines of “FUCKIN’ ‘AVIN IT MAAAATE!”
However, the lager-lad brigade may not find much to connect with on new album Velociraptor!, as it’s not quite as excitable as the exclamation mark in its title may suggest. Sure, there’s the ‘Immigrant Song’-aping swagger of ‘Days Are Forgotten’ and the taut, brutish menace of ‘Switchblade Smiles’ (which also seems to riff on the very same song, oddly enough), but beyond that there isn’t much in the way of the stadium-ready anthems that the band are best known for.
There certainly isn’t a lack of ambition on this record – the problem is that it fails to come to fruition more often than not. ‘Lets Roll Just Like We Used To’ begins the record with the sound of a booming gong, before revealing that it actually wants to be a late-period Beatles track – it’s competent enough but struggles to leave a lasting impression. Worse is ‘Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm)’, which falls into the same trap as a few tracks from the band’s previous record – it’s all bombast and pretensions at being “epic”, but lacks any sort of aim or focus. Even the more straightforward electro-rock stomp of ‘Rewired’ feels like an off-cut from a previous record.
At other times, the record actually manages to make Kasabian sound boring, which, for all their faults, is something you’d struggle to have accused them of in the past. ‘Goodbye Kiss’ is a fairly pedestrian attempt at being romantic and bittersweet, while ‘La Fee Verte’ is the least interesting song about absinthe that you’re ever likely to hear. The most criminal moment on the record, however, is ‘Man Of Simple Pleasures’ – a song whose lethargic swagger couldn’t be more Oasis-aping if it tried.
To be fair, it’s not all completely terrible. Despite its wilfully oddball lyrics, the record’s title track at least has some pace about it, and the plodding ‘I Hear Voices’ just about gets a pass because it sounds a bit like something from one of the Streets Of Rage games. The record’s best attempt at balladry also comes at its close, with ‘Neon Noon’ at least having the good grace to pinch some synth sounds from the band’s debut in order to make things at least a little interesting.
Regardless of any misgivings I (or anyone else) may have, the album’s commercial success was all but assured – and sure enough, it went straight to number one in the UK charts on the week of its release. More surprising, however, is that critical reaction to the record has also been largely positive – it currently stands at a respectable average of 80 on Metacritic, with only Drowned In Sound and The Observer giving it less than 6/10. Personally, I’d be inclined to agree with these low-scoring exceptions – and also this scathing missive from Chris Nosnibor over at Whisperin’ And Hollerin’. Go ahead and decide for yourself though – you can listen to the album yourself courtesy of this stream (via NME.com).
Velociraptor! is out now on Columbia records.