Kasabian’s fourth album strides into the music world in typically thrusting style. Having hit the jackpot with 2009’s Number 1, million-plus selling West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, the Leicester lads’ follow-up is even more assertive. Named after the lethal predator featured in Jurassic Park, Velociraptor! boasts a superfluous exclamation mark entirely suited to a band who can never be accused of understatement.
Front man Tom Meighan’s comment that the album “will change people’s lives” may be laughable, but the ludicrously named Velociraptor! will definitely be massive. And even if Kasabian are regarded by some as a throwback to an earlier era on account of their macho posturing and testosterone-fuelled music, they are far from rock dinosaurs.
Though often compared to Oasis, they cannot be pigeon-holed as a retro rock band because they have kept up with the times technologically and varied their musical output, from indie guitar rock to electronica, bass-led dance to psychedelia, like a mixture of Primal Scream, Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. Kasabian are much more adventurous than their typecast image of just being creators of swaggering rock anthems, as Velociraptor! proves.
Like their previous album, Velociraptor! is brilliantly produced by Dan The Automator, known of course for his hip hop background and for helming Gorillaz’ multi-faceted debut album. Songwriter Sergio Pizzorno’s usual rambling lyrics may possess the coherence of overwrought adolescent poetry, but musically the tracks are an intriguingly eclectic mix of bold gestures and quirky detail.
The album opens with a bang, as Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To starts with a Rank film-like gong sound, followed by growling synths and Ennio Morricone-style horns, before an Oriental melody accompanies a bizarrely nostalgic tale, beginning “Out of my garden passed the battle cruiser / We jumped over cemetery gates”. First single Days Are Forgotten shows a hip hop influence with its insistent grooves leading to a lush chorus that would not sound out of place in a Bond film and ending with unexpected Mississippi blues wailing.
The more straightforward, string-backed power ballad Goodbye Kiss describes the end of a burnt-out affair “doomed from the start” in which “rock and roll sent us insane”. The spaced-out La Fée Verte (The Old Green Fairy) recalls The Beatles‘ psychedelic phase with its dreamy mood and surreal lyrics (including a reference to “Lucy in the sky”), as Meighnan croons, “How does it feel to live your life where nothing is real?”
In contrast, the title track echoes Beastie Boys’ faux menace, with its memorably semi-rapped lines about the deadly dinosaur, “He’s gunna find ya / He’s gunna kill ya, / He’s gunna eat ya”. Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm) once more heads eastwards, this time with epic portentousness, in a warning about forthcoming disaster. Switching styles again, the Krautrock-inspired I Hear Voices is a slice of psychotic synth pop, while Re-wired pulses with an electric frisson.
Man Of Simple Pleasures chugs along pleasantly but Switchblade Smiles exudes violence as Eastern and Western musical styles collide. The ambient Neon Noon throbs with reverb and synths, as Meighan drones, “Sink like a stone hear no sound time stood still / Enter the void leave no trace where you’ve been” – a surprisingly melancholic and haunting way to end the album.
At over 50 minutes’ long, Velociraptor! is a big beast but by no means over-extended. And, like Kasabian’s previous three albums, it carves out its own distinctively individual style. Love them or loathe them, it is hard to ignore the brash confidence with which the band take another giant stride towards stadium dominance.