Kasabian's eponymous debut album was released at an interesting time for British music. Building on the foundations laid by The Strokes and then The Libertines, an entire scene, ‘indie’, was breaking forth into mainstream public consciousness.
Graham Coxon had shed his Britpop skin and was freakin' out with his most successful solo album, The Killers were coming out of their cage and doing just fine, especially when compared to The Libertines who couldn’t stand each other now. Franz Ferdinand just wanted to take you out and Razorlight had the golden touch.
Kasabian were often misclassified as part of that scene, but they always sat adjacent to it, avoiding the tag of 'guitar band' simply because they were so much more. Famously in an interview with FHM many years later Serge stated that "We've never been an indie band, you know, and I sort of f*cking hate indie bands” before going onto brand Kasabian’s music as future rock.
The indie scene soon veered all too quickly into what we now call landfill territory whilst Kasabian didn’t just endure, they thrived. In fact, all five albums they’ve released since their debut have topped the UK charts.
Kasabian formed in 1997, most of the members growing up and attending the same schools in south Leicester. Originally called Saracuse it was Chris Karloff who suggested the name of Kasabian. After Linda Kasabian, the getaway driver for the notorious Manson Family cult. 'Kasabian' is the only album to feature founding member Chris Karloff, who alongside Serge served as the band's lead guitarist and songwriter until he left due to creative difference in 2006 during the recording of their follow-up record 'Empire'.
Kasabian retreated to the countryside in order to record their debut album, to a friends farmhouse in Rutland - for head-space and to avoid going on benders every night. The album was released 6th September 2004, it peaked at #4 in the UK charts and has since gone triple platinum.
'Kasabian' was preceded by numerous singles, 'Reason Is Treason' was released as a limited single in February 2004. The artwork featured the band's Ultraface masked-man stencil logo, designed by Simon Corkin, in an earlier form with the shoulders and full head still apparent. The now-iconic simplified version graces the cover of 'Kasabian', a host of other singles and the majority of the band's merchandise.
'Club Foot' was then released in May, its distinctive bass riff meaning it became Kasabian’s breakthrough single. However, it was their following release 'L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)' in August that would become their first UK top 10 hit. Helped in no small part by its inclusion on the soundtrack to the Fifa 2004 video game. A point we touched upon in our recent feature on Bands FC.
Upon its release 'Kasabian' was classified by some sections of the media as derivative or revisionist - a glorified Stone Roses or Happy Mondays tribute act, Madchester wannabe's, baggy revivalists…take your pick. These were all accusations levelled at Kasabian on this album because they didn’t follow the script, bucking the media’s trend and defying industry expectations. Whilst their musical lineage can be traced through all those bands and their surrounding scene's there is depth to the music and a variety of more complex influences on display.
Innumerous psychedelic elements, a kraut-eqsue drum beat that continually drives through the entire record, space-age synths, acid house and hip-hop breaks. Big-beats akin to those early Chemical Brothers albums and dark electronica like you’d find on the first records Primal Scream made after Mani joined in the late '90s. All combine with vocal hooks and big choruses in the style of their heroes and later friends, Oasis.
A certain level of derision was thrown at Kasabian in their early days, their arrogance and swagger an all too familiar reminder of lad culture prevalent in the ‘90s. Yet at the same time, there was a familiarity to Kasabian not present in their contemporaries; effortless New York cool, art school pretensions and troubled trendy troubadours all seemed to exist in a different world to those with a provincial British upbringing.
This made Kasabian seem all the more real and relatable. They were of the people and as such, they were embraced by the masses. Whilst other rockstars and musicians at the time seemed like they were from outer space, Kasabian seemed like they were from down the road and it was their music that would take you to outer space instead.