For a city whose musical heritage had consisted previously of Showaddywaddy and Englebert Humperdinck, Kasabian were a huge blessing. I went to their concert at De Montfort Hall, Leicester in 2006 and their connection with the locals was extraordinary. Their last album, 'West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum', was my album of the year in 2009, with its weird yet entrancing blend of hip-hop, electronic and psychedelia.
It saw Kasabian evolve their sound without alienating their audience, a remarkable achievement given a large proportion of their fans have been brought up on the lad-rock of Oasis and Embrace. This is why it’s so difficult for me to report that their latest effort is such a disappointment.
It seems given the break-up of Oasis, Kasabian have tried too hard and attempted to produce an album that will work for everyone. As a result, despite the window-dressing of Morricone-esque string arrangements, it lacks the spirit of adventure which made 'West Ryder...' so special.
Opener 'Let Roll Like We Used To' is a mis-fire and it’s the next track, 'Days Are Forgotten' which really kicks of the album. A piece of psychedelic freak-rock, it’s one of only two highlights on the first half the album. The other is the title track, which is by equal measures preposterous, daft and epic, and you can imagine the band having great fun when recording it.
Disappointingly, Kasabian have taken the ‘heir to Oasis’ label far too much to heart as they also imitate The Beatles in 'La Fee Verte' which includes a hackneyed reference to 'Lucy In The Sky'. The strings are overbearing in 'Goodbye Kiss', while 'Acid Turkish Bath' is aimless, which is only noteworthy for its adoption of a mystic Eastern sound.
The second half of the record is far stronger. Tom Meighan’s everyman appeal in the band’s ace in the hole, which means they can indulge their progressive electronic tendencies on the excellent 'I Hear Voices'. 'Re-Wired' is equally strong, with its stomping singalong chorus and fuzzy electronic build-up. It features an impressively bombastic breakdown and the strings intertwine beautifully with the synths in the outro.
'Switchblade Smiles' sees 'Velociraptor!' finally wake from its slumber with, with its huge drums and thrilling build-up as Meighan asks repeatedly "Can you feel it coming?". However, just when you are expecting the song to lift off with its chorus, it does the opposite with a dreary refrain that sucks out much of its excitement. 'Man Of Simple Pleasures' is all too predictable and plodding but far superior is the dreamy album closer of 'Neon Neon'.
'Velociraptor!' won’t ‘change people’s lives’ and it isn’t the rock classic Kasabian were aiming for. It is a mess of a record, brim to the full of ideas, some good but ultimately more that don’t work. Their detractors will claim Kasabian have become the leading rock act in Britain by default following the demise of their peers. Although I think this is unfair, I won’t be putting this record as a case for the defence.
STREAM: Switchblade Smiles by kasabian
'Velociraptor! is available to purchase from your local retailer, iTunes, Amazon.co.uk.