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.
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’. K 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.