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Record Review: Kasabian

This story was published March 24, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

Let me be the first music snob — I mean, person — to admit that I don’t understand where bands get their names. It seems that “scary” or “confusing” are the only two available options.

What happened to misspelling an insect and throwing “The” in front of everything? I find myself in the midst of groups like And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (not as scary as they sound) and Limp Bizkit (getting scarier the farther I get from the 90s.)

Kasabian, a newly famous British band, derives their name from the Armenian word for “butcher.” It also references Linda Kasabian, the getaway driver for the Charles Manson murders.

Stormy and moody, these boys have some ruffled feathers that can’t be patted back into place. The tricky part is that despite their off-putting name, their music is actually quite nice.

Vocalist Tom Meighan’s voice has a pleasant sharpness and a smooth finish, like a good cigar. It doesn’t hurt that he sounds almost identical to The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft.

Kasabian’s self-titled album is filled with transient electronic noises and brief moments of guitar distortion. Each track has intricate backing parts — these bite-sized morsels of creativity add depth and character to the album.

The use of a sitar on “Test Transmission” adds an exotic feel to only marginally interesting lyrics. The synthesizer is surprisingly good, as it is on most of the album, although the solo is a little too spacey for my tastes.

The best song on the album, “Cutt Off,” is the story of a scientist who has a bad LSD trip and bombs a train. The lyrics are murky, so it took several listens for me to pick up on the violent undertones of this otherwise perky, danceable track.

“Cutt Off”’s synthesizer plays riffs that are similar to the orchestral string work often used by The Eels and The Verve. About two minutes into the song, there is a short interlude of distortion followed by a complete cut off (har har.) When the music resumes, the guitar bounces back into the picture, playing what could have been the song’s bass line. It works incredibly well.

Kasabian makes good use of their bassist, which adds a fresh and funky sound. Today’s bassists are under-appreciated and under-utilized, unless they are The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea, in which case they’re super famous and get to dance naked onstage.

“Processed Beats” is the album’s most interesting song. It has a bass line to groove with, splashy drum work and a multi-vocal chorus. This is Kasabian’s most distinguishing feature; for almost every chorus, the singer’s voice is looped with echo effects and the refrain consists only of “ahs,” “ohs” and the occasional “hmm.”

I can almost feel an action movie coming on with “Ovary Stripe,” a jarring instrumental tribute to songs that back intense cinematic situations.

I haven’t made lots of comparisons between Kasabian and other bands because, frankly, the bands they sound like aren’t big in America. In the U.K., groups like Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are household names, but Americans aren’t into unrelenting electro-rock.

Meighan has little respect for our grooves, calling them “three-minute, scuzzy garage rock sh*t” in an interview with SPIN.

You say potato, I say potato. And really, Kasabian, what’s in a name?

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