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Steeped in dark-side rock’n’roll iconography from the start, the post-baggy quartet named themselves after Charles Manson “family” member and getaway driver, Linda Kasabian.
Forging their swaggering retro-fried sound in the time-honoured fashion (a la The BAND and CAPTAIN BEEFHEART/MAGIC BAND) from a communal seclusion, KASABIAN emerged from their proverbial bunker (a remote farmhouse near Rutland Water to be exact) in 2003/4; they’ve never really looked back.
Formed in 1997 as Saracuse, and hailing from Countesthorpe and Blaby in Leicestershire, England, school friends Tom Meighan (vocals) and Serge Pizzorno (guitar), plus Christopher Karloff (lead guitar) and Chris Edwards (bass) duly performed initially at the latter’s 18th birthday party at the Vipers Rugby Club. Little was heard or seen of KASABIAN from 1999 onwards (save for a 3-song demo), until they finally came out of their shell in 2003/04 with a couple of collectable one-sided 10″ singles, `Processed Beats’ and `Reason Is Treason’, yet it was the jackhammer groove of Top 20 third single, `Club Foot’, that really booted the new wave-influenced competition into touch: this was exactly the kind of post-modern ZEPPELIN-esque behemoth that JOHN SQUIRE never wrote. Follow-up Top 10 single, `L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)’, showcased the kind of baggy beat and aggro-slurring vocals that suggested KASABIAN – for all their classic rock action – were a 90s band adrift in the 00s – the real “second coming” some might say.
The eponymous KASABIAN (2004) {*8} was certainly received as such, with critics falling over themselves to hail the belated heirs to PRIMAL SCREAM, OASIS, The CHARLATANS, HAPPY MONDAYS and The STONE ROSES – dangerously rolled into one through the opinionated, media-baiting Meighan. To their growing catalogue of anthemic narco-classics, they added `Cutt Off’, along with subsequent re-issues of `Processed…’ and `Club…’, massive chart hits all; they also covered BOWIE’s `Heroes’ on a B-side.
If one could imagine head-on glam-rave for the post-Brit-pop masses (and a potpourri of other genres in tow from The FALL to The CHEMICAL BROTHERS), the ambiguous mishmash that was “the always difficult” sophomore set, EMPIRE (2006) {*6} was at least adventurous. Drummer Ian Matthews had added proper beats to the equation. Turmoil in the ranks had left Karloff to duly lick his wounds elsewhere, but there was enterprise in Pizzorno’s songs, the best from the chart-topping set stemming from Top 30 hits `Shoot The Runner’, the title track and `Me Plus One’.
Former stand-in rhythm guitarist Jay Mehler (from the States) was promoted for album number three, WEST RYDER PAUPER LUNATIC ASYLUM (2009) {*7}. Produced by leftfield/hip-hop specialist Dan The Automator, who’d worked with DAMON ALBARN (in GORILLAZ and The GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN), the psychedelic rhythms and beats bounced back with swaggering ease. Precociously enigmatic as any good outfit should be these days, their most poppy tune so far came by way of `Where Did All The Love Go?’, while other singles `Underdog’ (arguably their best track to date), `Fire’ and `Vlad The Impaler’ restored the rock-beat element.
If one thinks of the struggles all their Brit-pop peers had to break in America, then it was hardly worth the effort for KASABIAN. Proof-in-point was with their next UK chart-topper, VELOCIRAPTOR! (2011) {*6}, which failed to even garner a Billboard Top 200 placing. With Automator throwing in everything but the kitchen sink into production, the melodies were trippy visions of we’ve-heard-it-all-before song and verse. Lessons might be learned from this over-hyped set, although easy-listeners will enjoy crooners `Goodbye Kiss’ (very 50s), `Let’s Roll Like We Used To’ (very 60s Brill Building), `Days Are Forgotten’ (very 60s soundtrack) and `Re-Wired’ (very 70s MOTT/IAN HUNTER); turn on your mojo for the KRAFTWERK-meets-KORGIS `Neon Noon’ and the chaotic `Switchblade Smile’.
On a lighter note, the bearded Giorgio Samaras-looking Serge could be seen scoring a cracking goal for the England select (with X Factor’s Olly Muraagghhs) against the ROW in a 2012 charity match at Wembley – a proud boy indeed, thanks to one-time Rangers defender Gordon Ramsay serving it to him on a plate. Only kidding.
Retro-fried and glam to the max, KASABIAN (without BEADY EYE-bound Mehler) counted on the sum of all tracks for their fourth set, 48:13 (2014) {*7}. Becoming Britain’s numero uno rock band curried little favour with an unimpressed American market whose enthusiasm for bands on a acid house/rave/rock trip were given short shrift. With the exception of the hip hop-treated `Glass’ (featuring rapper Suli Breaks), producer Pizzorno and Co pirouetted on platforms for such festival-reeling sing-a-longs, `Bumblebeee’ (procuring in part, DAVID ESSEX’s `Rock On’), the bow-cutting `Stevie’ and the ska-infused `Doomsday’. Standing out from the pack, Top 30 smash `Eez-eh’ was easy on the ear; its bass-thumping grooves aimed equally at the fist-pumping dance-floor simians and/or the mosh-pit.
When both Leicester City FC and snooker’s Mark Selby respectively won an English Premier League and Embassy World Final double in May 2016, the supportive KASABIAN were on top of cloud nine – but it would be exactly a year on before songwriter Sergio and Co reached the top of the charts again a la FOR CRYING OUT LOUD (2017) {*7}. Gone for the most part was their OASIS branded kinship, though in its place was a glam-pop/rock swathe of swagger and simple sophistication. From the opening pieces, `Ill Ray (The King)’ and `You’re In Love With A Psycho’ (a minor hit), to the rousing `Bless This Acid House’ and `Put Your Life On It’, there was much to pore over for their disciples of post-Britpop.
© MC Strong 2006/GRD // rev-up MCS June2012-May2017

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