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Fookin'-A 

Kasabian has its sights set on becoming the coolest -- and most stereotypical -- Britrock band around

Wednesday, Mar 9 2005
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In addition to the ever-popular "bloody wankers" and "daft cunts," there are two somewhat more charitable insults that Britons hating on their nation's dominant rock bands like to sling. "Bedwetters" is directed at overly earnest, sensitive swoon merchants like Keane, Coldplay, and Snow Patrol. "Students," meanwhile, is the derisive tag hung on Franz Ferdinand, Muse, and anyone else perceived to be indulging in artsy pretension.

It only takes a few moments on the phone with Sergio Pizzorno -- guitarist and chief songwriter for the kinetic U.K. dance-rock quintet Kasabian -- to figure out that neither term applies to him. It's 4 in the afternoon, he's just rolled out of his bunk, and the blast of frigid Boston air that greeted him as he stepped out of the tour bus was a rude but necessary wake-up call.

"America is so fookin' cold, I'm freezin' my bollocks off," Pizzorno murmurs in his thick Leicester accent. "It's good, though, it's waking me up -- I decided to go on a two-day drinking binge and it was an incredible experience, but now I'm here but I'm not, and we have sound check in a few, so I gotta get with it."

And, he adds, if the festivities to come are anything like the previous stops on the band's inaugural U.S. tour, he wants to be more than semiconscious.

"There's been a ton of girls, man! That's the reason I play guitar. Well, it's not the Number 1 priority, but it's definitely a nice little bonus, mate."

Chicks, booze ... all Pizzorno and the rest of the scruffy-looking Kasabian gang -- singer Tom Meighan, guitarist/keyboardist Christopher Karloff, bassist Chris Edwards, and new drummer Ian Matthews -- need to do is chuck a TV into a hotel swimming pool or head-butt an autograph seeker and they'll complete a rock-rapscallion trifecta that we haven't seen from a British band since Noel and Liam wreaked havoc on our shores what seems like eons ago. And besides, when you're named after Manson Family member turned state's witness Linda Kasabian, you can't come across like a namby-pamby.

"I think nowadays people expect you to sip your tea and talk about fookin' Tchaikovsky, or go on about the fookin' poem book you just read on the bus and get weepy, and that's bollocks, mate," says Pizzorno. "Life's too short for that shit."

Now all we need is a bit of the ol' inflated ego to top things off.

"We have as much fun as we possibly can and we make great music," he continues. "It's what we do ... we're rock 'n' roll stars, man."

Ah, there ya go! Well, it's hardly the first such audacious statement Pizzorno or one of his bandmates (all friends since childhood) has made to the press recently, especially in the run-up to last month's Brit Awards, where Kasabian -- practically unknown throughout England at the beginning of 2004, though the group's been together since 1998 -- was up for three awards, including Best British Band and Best Rock Act (it lost out in both categories to those "students" Franz Ferdinand). The U.K. media has had a field day running with Kasabian's oft-stated intentions of becoming the latest savior of British rock. And while his band's self-titled debut album finally gets its U.S. release this week (it came out in Britain nearly six months ago), Pizzorno has already discovered that word of Kasabian's cockiness has definitely preceded the group's stateside visit.

"It's funny," he says. "Some people here in America say to us, 'Ahhhh, you fooks, you come over here with this arrogant fookin' rock 'n' roll attitude and that's dead now, those lifestyles are dead.' And they're not, mate, they're not. We're just having fun, man. We're all 24 years old, we go all around the world and play in front of people, we like a few drinks, we like to have a little bit of a party every now and again. That's a great way to live your life. Them ideas, they ain't dead, d'y'know what I mean? It's still alive and kicking 'cause it's fun, man, it's fookin' fun."

If Pizzorno maintains a worldview befitting a Gallagher brother -- certainly appropriate, since it was seeing a 1995 Oasis concert that inspired him to form his own band -- Kasabian displays a swagger and energy that has less to do with anthemic pub-rock than with the baggy grooves of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, and the dark, electronic-laced psychedelia and sloganeering of Vanishing Point/XTRMNTR-era Primal Scream. The latter vibe is especially evident in the lurid, distorted bass line, the walloping drum loop, and the whooshing synths that propel opener "Club Foot" like a Kowalski-driven Challenger tearing through a dimly lit tunnel and leaving taillight acid trails in its wake, and in the druggy haze of "I.D.," its disorienting keyboard oscillations and shoegazery guitar pulsing under coolly laconic vocals.

When he's not channeling Bobby Gillespie's menacing drawl, Meighan demonstrates a knack for melodically slurry Shaun Ryder-isms, made all the more obvious on tracks like "Processed Beats" and "L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)" that sport some of that old Madchester chemical bounce. Still, there's enough sonic deviation -- the motorized snap of "Reason Is Treason"; the sitar-fed creepiness of "Running Battle"; the dapper instrumental "Ovary Stripe," which could have perfectly soundtracked the closing credits of The Bourne Supremacy -- to keep the album consistently engaging and prevent it from descending into the realm of pure rehash.

Of course, in a move reminiscent of that whole Interpol/Joy Division hubbub, Pizzorno disavows any connection to those groups most often cited as obvious influences.

"I gotta say I'm sick and tired of talking about the Mondays and the Stone Roses, 'cause I don't hear it, personally," he insists. "I never even cared for those bands. They're good people and they're nice and they were fine and all of that, but it's not my thing and it has nothing to do with this band."

Ermmm ... OK.

"It makes it harder and harder to do interviews, I gotta tell you," he continues, the frustration in his voice becoming alarmingly palpable. "It just makes me mad when journalists use other band names to describe us. You can't win, really. You just gotta get to a point where you sell enough albums that you can just do one interview and that's it."

Though I'm certain he's about to hang up the phone, Pizzorno actually softens a bit. "I guess if no one was ringing us up then we'd be just as frustrated, you know? Because then we'd be like, why is no one caring? When we were kids we said we were gonna take over the world, not that we knew what that meant. So I suppose that once you talk the talk you gotta walk in the trousers, and you deal with whatever comes your way."

And when he starts thinking about the fact that Kasabian has a very real opportunity to make it big with American fans who might be tiring of the recent trend of Brit-band wimpiness, the guitarist teeters dangerously close to sentimentality himself.

"We can't fookin' believe it. We're just some kids from Leicester, and the fact that someone in fookin' San Francisco can come see us play and buy our album now is fookin' incredible. The best moment I've had in my life up to now was seeing it in the package with the cover and all of that, and knowing it was gonna be on shelves around the world; that was what I dreamed of for so long."

Then, of course, Pizzorno remembers who he is.

"It's gonna live for a long time, this album. In 30 years, my kids are gonna come up to me going, 'Have you heard of this band?' And I'll be like, 'Ahh yeah, they were really fookin' cool, one of the best bands in the world. And they weren't fookin' bedwetters.'"

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Michael Alan Goldberg

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