They came, they saw a gap for Indian inflected indie that was just the right side of rock, they conquered a bit and then they got downed, mired in accusations of fascistic leanings and being a bit too posh.  I’m getting better at this, I can do it in a single sentence these days.  Next!

Kula Shaker K, from those (over here) Brit Pop infested days of 1996 is a, mostly, cracking LP.  Kula Shaker stood out amongst all the Beatles and Faces copyists by lacing their ‘Within You Without You’ leanings to an engine propelled by a healthy portion of Rod Evans-era Deep Purple; I kid you not.  Being the open-minded chap I am, after reading an interview and learning that lead singer/guitarist Crispian Mills was the privileged scion of Sir John Mills and Hayley Mills, as well as coming over like a bit of a prick, I immediately decided the band were crap after not hearing a note.  Wrong again.

Brilliant Dave Gibbons cover art  - completely unmolested by me
Brilliant Dave Gibbons cover art – completely unmolested by me

When my brother persuaded me to give it a go I really wasn’t disappointed.  The fact that K comes with a very cool cover by comic supremo Dave Gibbons helped too; just file me under ‘Shallow’.  explodes from the off with ‘Hey Dude’ which borrows a trick, or two from Deep Purple’s ‘Hush’*, with some really great guitar and urgent vocals.  It really is just brilliant, I defy you not to be singing the chorus to yourself hours later, ‘Hey dude, don’t lean on me man / You treat me like a woman when I feel like a man’.  If this track were the only one on the album then I wouldn’t have felt ripped off.  Next up is ‘Knight On The Town’, another great loud rocker, completely and utterly ripping off The Stooges ‘Loose’, albeit without the blank-eyed danger.  Again I kid you not when I commend the guitaring to you.

Kula Shaker 03

It all gets a little more difficult to recommend with ‘Temple Of Everlasting Light’, which pinches a cue, or two from the box of inspiration marked Zeppelin-gone-mystic. and has been garlanded by all sorts of tablas and fancy bits but no real substance.  Then we’re into the track which gave rise to all those gap-year indie accusations, ‘Govinda’ which takes its lyrics from a Sanskrit devotional.  It treads that fine line between misjudged cultural appropriation and heartfelt awakening, it all goes a bit Indian restaurant at one point but comes crashing back in good style.  I really like it, but I also remember my brother and I rolling around on the floor crying laughing at the fact that the way he pronounces ‘Govinda jaya jaya’ is a dead ringer for ‘Golden vagina’ – TRUE!  Check it if you don’t believe me.  Yup, this is my true level of sophistication and humour, basically all a bit sub-Beavis and Butthead.

Kula Shaker 02

The rather delicate, soundtrack to an arty French film soundalike ‘Magic Theatre’, which sounds a little like my beloved Goldfrapp, is sandwiched between two indie duffers, which didn’t raise my hopes at all for Side 2, I hadn’t played K for almost 12 years, or so, prior to today; but it was a darn sight better than I remembered it being.  Okay so ‘Tattva’ is ‘Govinda’ redux, with added Beatles bits, but then we get to the real gem here.  Coming on like a cross between Santana at his most rocking and Rod Evans Purps again, ‘Grateful When You’re Dead / Jerry Was There’** is nothing short of excellent, cutting loose with some great guitar yet again, the rhythm section of Paul Winterhart and Alonzo Bevan earn their corn on this tune too.  At times you just wish they’d shuck off the mystical trappings, reach for the flying V’s and just go for it because Kula Shaker really could rock.

Kula Shaker 06

Now the band ran aground after various misjudged comments from Mills about swastikas^, a fondness for conspiracy theorists who also held anti-Semitic and controversial views on AIDS and basically the fact they just weren’t a particularly likable bunch.  Do I think he was a Nazi sympathiser? no, I just think he was an over-indulged rich kid who no-one had ever told to shut up and who consequently was prone to shooting his mouth off without the necessary thought that goes into having such a platform for your views.

Fuck witticism of the highest order
Fuck witticism of the highest order

But that’s all by-the-by at this remove, stream or cue up the best tracks here and you really won’t be disappointed, ‘Grateful When You’re Dead’ in particular.

412 Down.

Officially the 14th best LP of 1996 according to NME - yes I'm that much of a moron/archivist that I kept stuff like this inside the LP.
Officially the 14th best LP of 1996 according to NME – yes I’m that much of a moron/archivist that I kept stuff like this inside the LP (and ticked off the ones I had)

P.S – Goddamn broadband problems are crippling me at the moment, this has taken me days to write because the thing keeps conking out on me.  Beelzebub’s Arse!!  I’m a very patient person when it comes to people, but I go 0 – 60mph in nanoseconds when faced with malfunctioning tech – who in my home town could ever forget The Night The Printer Wouldn’t Do As It Was Told in 2008? it left two buildings burned to the ground and nine casualties.

*funny that, given that they released a really great version of ‘Hush’ in 1997.  Oh and I know it was originally by Joe South, but you know what I mean, it’s a Purple track and you know it!

**see what they did there?

^yup we know they were originally an Indian symbol inverted by the Nazis, but only a dimwit trivialises this in the NME without any sort of qualifying remarks and without realising that for a Western audience the symbol has been tainted a wee bit by certain historical events.

18 thoughts on “Golden V

  1. Is it always a good review when it mirrors one’s own thoughts? On Planet Narcissism, certainly.

    Remember once viewing a nice little rental property in inner suburban Melbourne back in the day. Nice house with a lovely basket wood fire and 1920s wooden mantle with a carved design that featured the swastika. Strange, the cognitive dissonance produced, knowing it was innocent decoration when carved but with a shudderingly awful historic future/past.

    Didn’t rent.

    1. Wahey! broadband working properly now.

      That’s an amazing story Bruce, I’m astonished the mantle lasted that long – I own a swastika flag, armbands and an iron cross that my grandfather found in a hay loft during the march on Berlin, not that I have them on display I hasten to add. That symbol even now makes me shudder to see.

      It’s far too powerful to mess with even in a serious manner, so I have very little time for foolish comments from foolish people about it all – even if they do bang out the odd really great tune.

  2. Pushing ALL my buttons here pal; Deep Purple Mark I, The Stooges’ “Loose”, early Santana, Indian tabla, and Jerry Garcia jokes (whenever I hear his name I think of Flo & Eddie’s “Pop Star Massage Unit”)
    Totally new to me, this is F’n KICKIN’!! Really loving this, must go find it. THANKS 🙂
    Beelzebub’s Arse Dept. Totally get your frustration, for past week my phone has been ringing ONE LONG TONE and hanging up on callers. Told that lightning storm fried my DSL filters, replaced all of them. Another big storm today, and the. PHONE. has. been. driving. me. MENTAL AS ANYTHING.

    1. Brilliant! There’s some average stuff on here but the good bits are just excellent. Really pleased I could be of service.

      Technology hates us, it has only ever pretended to be our friend very briefly in order to betray us. Technology talks about us behind our backs and hides our car keys and socks. True.

      1. A song I wrote and used to perform with Falling Edge is called “The Alternate Universe Of Socks”. It’s about the inter-dimensional portal in our Clothes Dryers;
        “It’s a place that’s full of lint, try not to sneeze,
        Everywhere the jingle of all our lost keys,
        Paperclips, pens, safety pins hang from trees,
        No static cling, no tumble dry…. to some degree”

      1. I meant that I like Rod’s version best of Purple’s covers, don’t particularly like Gillan’s take (no offense to him, love everything else he does, even J.C. Supastar)

      1. Ha! They’re a bit unloved – I’ve digitised all the bits I want and occasionally lucky CDs get to spend a week, or so in my car before being dragged back to prison.

      2. I had one single — might have been Hush, I can’t remember — where the B-side was a radio trivia thing with the bassist, about leeks. Swear to God.

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