Well, it doesn't seem that long ago that I had just bought my copy of Kasabian's last album, the incredible West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, a psychedelic record filled with a whole world of interesting and different sounds, including massive tracks like Underdog, Fast Fuse and Fire that will go down as some of the band's best. And so here comes Velociraptor!, an album that, for the most part, ditches this style and moves away from power through massive guitar riffs and smashing drums - and instead moves towards a slightly more restrained, melodic design. Gone are the days of their trademark crowd-pleasing sing-along (or shout-along, mostly) choruses. Well, almost:
Days Are Forgotten is a brilliant first single that follows their old style, perhaps only slightly ruined by the nails-on-chalkboard style "aaaah"s that pop up occasionally, but with a huge chorus that evokes the Kasabian of old. Velociraptor!, the title track, despite being the shortest track on the album, is huge, the band at their best. It twists and turns and smacks you round the face - a real tour de force, definitely the best on the album despite its rather basic "Velociraptor, he's gonna find ya, he's gonna kill ya, he's gonna eat ya" chorus. Switchblade Smiles, the first track showcased back in June, is another highlight - there's a slightly more bearable scream from Sergio Pizzorno, but it still knocks the song down a level or two, and it's got a nice, big electronic vibe to it. The only other track that really follows this classic Kasabian style is Re-wired, which does not quite match up to anything they've done before, and sounds very slightly underwhelming considering the band's back catalogue - it's still a good song though, but I don't see it getting as big a reaction as, say, LSF, Empire or Underdog. In fact, having said that, I can't really see many tracks from here doing that either - maybe Velociraptor! - but then again the band should be commended for doing something different to what everyone labels them as.
So, now we've had a look at old Kasabian, let's look at the best of the new stuff. Let's Roll Just Like We Used To is a brilliant opener despite being the polar opposite of their previous album openers. It flows fantastically, and has the whole strings and brass treatment turning up here and there. It sounds big and cinematic, like the music playing over the opening credits of a film, particularly in the chorus. La Fee Verte takes its cues from the Beatles and does so excellently, and has a great, melodic chorus to go with it. It takes a bit of the psychedelia emphasised on West Ryder... and re-uses it to great effect. As does Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm), the longest thing they've done at six minutes dead. As the name may suggest, there is a slightly Eastern vibe to it, and like Let's Roll... it flows well, and the chorus is yet again completely different but no less great because of it. Then there's I Hear Voices, which sounds like something that could have been on their first two albums yet somehow it's still new and exciting. It's a very electronic song, guitars are sparse, if not non-existent. The chorus doesn't smack you round the face, but it might provoke a few sing-alongs at gigs. Oh, and it includes the line "They hunt for rabbits just like Yosemite Sam". Kudos to Kasabian for putting that in there.
The other three tracks, unfortunately, fall slightly short of the incredibly high mark the band have set. Goodbye Kiss is the best of the trio but still, it's nothing that sends shivers down your spine. Even after a few listens, it's showing no signs of growing. The chorus alone is good, but the rest of the song drags a bit and doesn't show off any marks of pure musical genius like their earlier stuff. E;sewhere, Man Of Simple Pleasures is the most uninteresting one on here, again there's nothing to make you go 'Wow!' and Neon Noon is an underwhelming closer, its dreamy, restrained design just going on a little bit too long; despite the occasional moment showing some promise in both these songs, they never really deliver. Still, compared to a lot of music these days, this is better. Kasabian have yet to put a song on an album that makes me go 'No. This is awful, I'm not listening to this." but when your previous songs include bangers such as Club Foot, Cutt Off, LSF... (the list goes on, and I've not even finished going through the first album!) the result drops below the mark.
It's good that Kasabian have made an attempt to break free of their 'lad-rock' label, and it's good that they decided to try for something more melodic and with more musical diversity, but unfortunately it's not something that I think suits them. Maybe time will change my mind, but after nine or ten listens, I think it's not improving much. However, there are sparks of promise - There are three fantastic classic-Kasabian tunes that, although they don't match up to some other songs, really are exciting, some of the best stuff released this year. The new style, however, ends up being very hit-and-miss, and I started to get a little weary of the album pretty much after I Hear Voices (the only real song I like beyond that point is Switchblade Smiles). But when it does hit, it hits really well.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Velociraptor!, Switchblade Smiles, Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm)
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACKS: Man Of Simple Pleasures, Neon Noon