Conrad Duncan takes aim at Kasabian’s appropriation of mental illness in their latest video
Unless you’re the sort of person who finds new music from Radio X or ‘songs you might have heard on Soccer AM’ playlists, chances are you might not have heard that Kasabian are back. Rejoice! I wonder what the lad-rock innovators have in-store for us? Last time they announced a new album, the brave boys from Leicester managed to take on our mighty rulers at Google with only an acid-house preset keyboard and a binder full of non-sequiturs. But it’s been nearly three years since we last heard from them, surely this new album will be as fearless and brutally honest as the last. Who will they take down this time? Trump? Brexit? ISIS? Oh no, it turns out they’re going to be too busy making fun of mental illness instead.
The song that I’m talking about is of course ‘You’re in Love with a Psycho’, the lead single from their upcoming album. But it’s less the song itself that I’m referring too than it is its music video. Sure, the song’s title is fairly crass in an age of mental health awareness and sensitivity but the whole thing is way too innocuous and pointless to stir up any strong emotions. It’s really only the chorus that could be considered offensive; unless you have a strong aversion to lyrics composed on a random word generator. Serge Pizzorno even talks about how the song was written in 15 minutes like you can’t already tell and as if that’s something to be proud of. Let’s just say that it’s not quite Paul McCartney coming up with ‘Yesterday’ from a dream he had.
However, what really stinks is the song’s video, in which Tom, Serge, Noel Fielding and co. have a good old song and dance in a mental institution. Serge seems pretty proud of it though, saying that ‘I think it’s the best video we’ve made, it’s like a celebration’. Yet, what it’s a celebration of exactly is a bit unclear (I don’t know – maybe mental institutions, I guess). Apparently, it’s all meant to be inspired by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which makes sense if you forget all the parts in the film where people are having a really bad time. I’m not saying that Kasabian can’t make a video inspired by that film but there’s something incredibly uncomfortable about the way that the band uses mental illness in it.
Throughout ‘You’re in Love with a Psycho’, mental illness is used as an accessory that’s there only to look cool and edgy. The whole thing is about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as much as Ariana Grande’s ‘Side By Side’ video is about cycling. Actors gurn for the camera and do silly movements while Serge and Tom do their best ‘I’m a crazy person’ impressions, something that’s only made worse by the behind the scenes footage where Serge and Noel are goofing around about how everyone’s having a breakdown. Everyone looks like they’re having a great time making it which would be fine if you put them in a different context like at a swimming pool or in a castle or pretty much anywhere else. But wait! You couldn’t possibly have the video in a different setting – it’s called ‘You’re in Love with a Psycho’. It wouldn’t make sense anywhere else! Well if that’s the case, at least they didn’t call it ‘You’re in Love with a Nazi’ then.
This sort of insensitivity isn’t really surprising from Kasabian though. In the past, they’ve done videos that have indulged in the edgy aesthetic of bank robberies and human impalement which you could argue are crass as well; although I struggle to care as someone who doesn’t own a bank or know anyone who’s been impaled. However, I do know more than a few people who have suffered from mental illness and I can assure Kasabian that it isn’t kooky or fun. Heck, Tom Meighan has even spoken recently about his difficulties with his mental health in 2016. You would have thought he might have considered the fact that this video doesn’t look very good. At least, you would hope that at some point someone in either the production crew, editing team, cast, or record label must have looked at it and asked the question ‘are you sure this is okay boys?’
I’m not writing this just to drag Kasabian for no reason. Honestly, I don’t mind them as a band and very few minutes of my day are spent thinking about them. ‘You’re in Love with a Psycho’ is a passable indie-rock song and one that I can’t deny has been stuck in my head ever since I started writing this but its video is deeply insensitive in a way that feels staggeringly stupid. If you think I’m overreacting then imagine the same video where Kasabian sing and dance their way through cancer treatment and the outrage it would receive. Mental illness isn’t a punchline to a joke or something you can use to make yourself seem more interesting. It’s real and it’s something that millions of people suffer from every year; something that tears families and friendships apart and can cause people to lose their lives. It’s definitely not something you can use to promote your album just because you watched a Jack Nicholson film once and didn’t get the point of it.
So Kasabian, next time you’re thinking of using mental illness to make yourselves look edgy, it would be greatly appreciated if you took a step back and tried to think twice before you make yourself look stupid again. It’s really not that hard to not be offensive. In fact, I’d say it’s fucking eez-eh.