Kasabian to bring dark, danceable rock to Beantown
Like the bandana around the face of their ubiquitous stenciled logo, the boys of Kasabian are shrouded in their own bits of mystery. The band, originally from Leicester, England, reportedly retreated into an old remote farmhouse to record their eponymous debut album. Rumors say they named the place Plaggey Bag Ranch, toked up more than their fair share and surrounded themselves with tons of music. But whatever they did, apparently it worked. They emerged as scruffy, longhaired stars with an ace album, filled with a mixture of violence and paranoia embedded in dark, clubby electronic-infused rock beats.
Their album went to top five in the U.K. charts this past October and the single "L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)" made it into the Top Ten. Perhaps a more interesting sign of their success in these times when the Danger Mouse School of Mixing reigns supreme is that any music-savvy eBayer can get his hands on a white vinyl mash-up of Kasabian's "Processed Beats" mixed with the Stone Roses' little masterpiece "Waterfall." Any English rocker would have to consider that successful.
Kasabian have not been all washed up on our shores either. Even though the album doesn't drop stateside until March 8, they're already on CMJ's Top Ten chart and the single "Club Foot" was last week's free iTunes download. Furthermore, they're starting off on their first U.S. tour and hitting Boston's Paradise Rock Club with fellow Britons the Music on Wednesday night.
But the funny thing about Kasabian is really the song titles. With names like "Cutt Off," "Reason Is Treason" and "L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)," they sound like a baby pop group born in the age of slang-orthography and Internet abbreviations (although there's no obvious explanation for the track entitled "Ovary Stripe"). But the image Kasabian cultivates is more wide-eyed rebellion than youthful playfulness. Named after the Charles Manson's getaway driver, Kasabian stamps every release with the same creepy stenciled image, badmouths the Strokes to the press, releases gritty music videos and sings lyrics like "See the stones coming at my window / See they left me with no protection / Tell his family that he won't be okay / K! I! LL!"
This is all to say that Kasabian have the frayed nerves of Thom Yorke channeled through melodies more reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They're, in a way, everything rock should be: kinda dark, a little dangerous, but infinitely danceable.
Their self-titled debut album survives on these qualities, buoyed by front man Tom Meighan's filtered, forceful lyrics. The record opens on a muted electronic chimes on the first track, "Club Foot," that sound like it could be the beginning to a Mercury Rev track until the guitar kicks in and all similarities to anything so mellow are swiftly given the boot, and the album takes on a forceful tone. Tracks like "Reason Is Treason" inspire the kind of hopping, hands-in-the-air dancing and loud-mouthed singing that recent attempts at "rock" by mellower, blander bands (think Keane) apparently forgot existed.
But the album has it's more transcendental moments as well, such as the lush and energetic electronic opening to "I.D." that's entirely instrumental for almost two minutes. That the same track is book-ended by "Orange (Interlude)," a 46-second piece of drumming and a repeated crescendo of choral notes, is an entirely brilliant move and flows fantastically into the next track, "L.S.F.," in which the lyrics jump in almost immediately.
The closing track, "U Boat," is similarly beautiful in a brooding, almost soulful way. It's hauntingly reminiscent of the emptiness of open water: the sharks are out there, but the music leaves the listener hanging onto a life buoy wondering just where they are.
The standout track, though, is certainly the mid-album "Test Transmission," a calmer piece of electronic beauty and wandering lyrics. The opening rumbles and rolls its way in on rollicking staccato sounds, and the chorus is a jaunty wail complete with its own soul clap. Guitars seem to come in from all over, synth sounds quietly explode like sunbursts buoying the vocals and it all descends into a high pitched human sigh.
Tracks like "Test Transmission" seem to highlight the potential Kasabian has to go beyond the terror-obsessed milieu of much of the rest of the album in future efforts. But for the moment, Kasabian's rocking odes to rebellion and drug-induced paranoia are some of the most enticing invitations to flash your middle finger, lose yourself in the music and romance the dance floor that are coming out of rock today.