While working in the library, trying desperately to fight the soporific effects of writing up a case analysis, I hunted through my music library in search of some tunes that would wake me up. I happened across a band I hadn’t listened to in quite some time, and I figured I’d return to them for the evening. And as I listened, I recalled precisely how much I enjoy Kasabian, a British band with some weird fusion of rock that I won’t try to define. They’re kind of weird, occasionally a bit aggressive, and always—always—interesting. Their music runs the gamut of electronic to orchestral, spending a solid amount of time in straight-up rock territory but never letting us get too complacent with their sound. So I thought I’d write a bit about them, because I think they’re really legit and everyone should at least check them out.
They’ve had four albums out to date. Each one has some incredible songs; the band’s lyrical quality is top notch, and there’s no lack of throbbing, hypnotic bass lines and entrancing melodies. The two singers switch off occasionally on singing, and each has a very distinctive style; the more rock-oriented songs are sung by frontman Tom Meighan, and the stranger songs (incidentally, most of my preferred selections) come from Sergio Pizzorno, who now also writes most if not all of the band’s material. Their eponymous debut is more electronic, which I originally thought I wouldn’t like—but I was surprised by how well I took it. Top recommendations: “Processed Beats,” “LSF,” “Butcher Blues.” That last song has an incredible bass line; with an endlessly rolling rhythm, it’s the kind of song you just start to flow with.
The second album, Empire, is more my speed; it was my introduction to Kasabian, and it’s definitely what got me hooked. Some more ballad-type songs in this one; you still get a touch of that original electronic flair, but it’s now fused with a more Oasis-type sound. The group tackles some pretty intense themes in this, too; it seems to center on war, and their way of going about it is delightful—they explore the people behind the conflict. It’s hard for me to choose, but here are some of my favorites: “Empire,” “By My Side,” and “The Doberman.” If you listen to a single song on this album, listen to “The Doberman.” The first time I listened to this song, it hit me halfway through the bridge: this is a band with ambition, the kind that wants to sweep you up on a wave of sound and throw you into the song’s thematic depths. The tension of those primitive background vocals, the incessant rhythmic throbbing, suddenly bursting into a gloriously crafted blend of brass and guitar. It builds you up and drops you back down. Quite possibly one of my favorite bridges of all time.
Okay, don’t be turned off the odd name, but the third album—West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum—is incredible. It’s quite possibly my favorite of theirs. It’s got some solid rock records with “Underdog” and “Fire,” both of which were well-received singles, but the real gems are the slower songs. The band really starts to switch up its sound on this album, with songs like “Secret Alphabets” adding an almost oriental flair and the ever-beautiful, quasi-orchestral “Take Aim” using strings to great advantage. The two strangest songs on the album—“West Ryder Silver Bullet” and “Vlad the Impaler”—couldn’t be more different, but they really are brilliant. The former is an incredibly stripped-down, lyrically luscious ballad; the latter combines a bloodthirsty 15th-century Eastern European ruler with an irresistibly throbbing dance beat. Weird, but wonderful. The sheer creativity of this album is incredible. Its lyrics reflect on some complex themes of humanity and love and nostalgia, and the music rises to that complexity with great success. If I were in the business of rating albums, this would get a 10/10.
And now we come to the final album in my far-too-short examination of Kasabian’s body of work: Velociraptor! Yes, that includes the exclamation. It’s not quite as great as the third album, but that’s a very high standard to meet—and Velociraptor! is still wonderful in its own right. The instant the album opens, it begins to entrance. Here’s a hint: it opens with a gong. A gong. How brilliant is that?! And followed by a delicious brass fanfare, too. “Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To” is simply irresistible, and the body of the song follows that clever opening with perfectly timed syncopation and even more brass. This album is quieter in some ways than the previous efforts, a bit more introspective and—no surprise—a bit weirder. That weirdness adds character, though. Highlights are “La Fee Verte” and “Acid Turkish Bath,” two rather long ballads. Pizzorno’s eccentric, complex, and brilliant fascinations are especially evident in these songs. They’re irresistibly odd. My other top choice, from which I drew the title for this post: “Goodbye Kiss,” which feels like a classic rock love ballad but weaves in striking elements of nostalgia and heartbreak. I’ll be honest; this song can make me cry, it’s just that subtly powerful. Its effects are unexpected. And that is the way with much of this band’s music. Unexpected brilliance, unassuming yet incredibly ambitious. And the themes—I could write an entire paper on those, but I won’t (I kind of already did for a seminar a few years ago…). Pay attention to the lyrics, that’s all I can say. Their sound is constantly evolving in excitingly varied ways, and I devoutly hope that rumours of a new album ring true. So there you have it: a brilliantly odd band, one that you won’t want to miss. Open your mind to their innovative lyrics, complexly developed themes, and intriguing blends of sound, and you will not be disappointed.