No matter what they do, an air of suspicion always seems to circle around Kasabian. Maybe it’s because they’ve always thought big, writing rock anthems long before they reached the size of audience to do them justice; maybe the laddish, big-mouthed attitude they gave off; maybe the fact that they seemed to be being groomed to step into Oasis’ shoes once the inevitable happened. Whatever the reason, they have become stuck in that most familiar categories – a band loved by an awful lot of people yet looked down upon by those that know ‘best’ – and like the majority of the others locked in there, they clearly care far more for the former than the latter.
Yet all this may be to do Kasabian an injustice, for theirs has never been an approach happy to settle for the mediocre, for the middle of the road. Right from the off, that attitude was backed by tunes with enough swagger to back it up and even their harshest critic would have to admit that they’ve reached their current status through an adherence to the old-fashioned rules of working your way up. More encouraging still, fourth album Velociraptor! suggests that, far from resting on their laurels, Kasabian have enough confidence in their own abilities to take chances and mess with their arena audience’s heads.
Although billed by the band themselves as their pop album, there’s nothing straightforward about the record. ‘Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To’, an ode to the friendship of core pair Serge Pizzorno and Tom Meighan, catches you off guard from the very start – a swirling, psychedelic intro leading into a trumpet led beat tune, completely unexpected and also very, very good. ‘Days Are Forgotten’ is similarly impressive, a tight and crisp funky tune that clearly bears the hallmarks of producer Dan The Automater.
Odd as it may sound, part of Velociraptor!’s charm is that it doesn’t always work. The surprisingly insipid ballad ‘Goodbye Kiss’ leads into a meandering middle section that fails to connect, especially on the ponderous ‘Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm)’. Yet these follies just throw into focus how could what follows is. ‘I Hear Voices’ takes their talent for a shout a long tune and applies it to a backing not unlike Vince Clarke era Depeche Mode, while ‘Man Of Simple Pleasures’ bowls along over a Gorillaz style hip-hop beat. They can’t keep it up, though, allowing the album to slide to a weak finish with the aimless ‘Neon Noon’. Not a perfect record then, far from it in fact, but Kasabian are far from a perfect band. What it does offer, however, is evidence that those who would dismiss them out of hand are doing them a disservice. Listen without prejudice and you might even surprise yourself.