Kasabian are a huge selling band but, much like Elbow, most of their output hovers somewhere between generic radio filler and just plain dull. The idea of a Kasabian covers EP isn’t necessarily one that should excite: if you love Kasabian – for whatever reason – chances are, you’d want to spin the original tunes; if you hate Kasabian, hearing someone else recycling their often forgettable songs probably isn’t anywhere near the top of your priority list.
The fact that Kasabian are a generic radio filling non-entity didn’t deter singer-songwriter Sophia Marshall. The one time Have-Nots vocalist went to school with three members of the band and uses that as a springboard for her first covers EP of 2018. The cryptically titled ‘lin-dah’ finds the Leeds songstress taking three Kasabian songs and remoulding them in her own image. For something which, on paper, sounds less than pleasurable, the results are…impressive to say the least.
The empty bombast of Kasabian’s best known hit ‘Fire’ is thrown out of the window and in its place, Marshall works a soft semi-acoustic tune, full of finger-picked motifs and uses that in a most lullaby-esque way. It’s the perfect backdrop for her vocal, which in this case rises to no more than a quiet beckoning, somewhere between dreampop and a hushed cover destined for a TV advert. It’s by no means a straight up voyage into Mazzy Star territory though; there’s a slight country twang throughout, anchored by a rootsy bassline and some very retro guitars echoing the sounds of the dobros favoured by folk and Americana sounds. The music is constantly inviting and incredibly multi-layered for something so laid back, but it’s not quite as appealing as the vocals which – again, with a very multi-layered approach – really show off Marshall’s range. The higher registers keep with the late night mood that opened the track, while other more melodic and harmony vocals fill a great deal of space. To say it’s a huge improvement over the original would be an understatement and a good frame of reference would possibly be haunting rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ by The Last Town Chorus.
‘Club Foot’ – one of Kasabian’s better songs, thanks to a beefy drum part adding a key interest – is redressed as an acoustic strummer on the surface, but much like before, there’s a well rounded arrangement within Marshall’s quietly unassuming performance that’s very much worth an ear. The chorus vocals are recycled as almost folky-pop “las”, while the lead vocal occasionally sounds like a more saintly and less moody answer to the work of Charlotte Carpenter (whose own song ‘Fire’ has nothing to do with either Marshall or Kasabian). Musically, this is also surprisingly complex, bringing back the dobro-ish sounds and a very retro lead guitar. What transpires is great folk-pop and a song that’s worth hearing in its own right. Last up, ‘Goodbye Kiss’ is perhaps the best of these three performances, showcasing Marshall’s slumberous approach in a way that could easily draw parallels with Hope Sandoval circa ‘Bavarian Fruit Bread’. The music fuses a classic dream pop mood with hints of early 70s Americana slowed to an almost woozy stance. Without trying too hard to dominate, Marshall approaches each line with a quietly unassuming presence which, obviously, in alternative semi acoustic terms works well. Since Kasabian’s original version sounds like a hybrid of Del Amitri and The La’s, it’s a natural choice for inclusion as part of Sophia’s acoustic driven mini tribute.
Obviously, you don’t have to like Kasabian to enjoy this EP – in fact, it probably helps a great deal if you don’t, or are largely unfamiliar with the source materials. More than enough of Sophia’s own talents come through on each of these tracks and kudos must also be given for the spacious and thoughtful arrangements. ‘lin-dah’ might not strive for originality – after all, stripped down covers have been a musical staple for decades – but the results are more than enjoyable…and should be especially so for those with a passing fancy for alt-folk and dreampop material.
[A free download of the EP is available now from Sophia’s official website.]