STRANGEFOLK / ESSENTIAL 20.8.07
Wow! Where have Kula Shaker been? It seems like decades that theyíve been away. Crispin Mills, he of the famous Mum and mystic self-involvement, has absented his band for six years and the mention of their name elicits hazy memories of some later, duller, records following 1997ís huge debut, K. Perhaps thatís why the band have started their own label to get this out to the world. I was never much interested in the band, surrounded, as they were, by the zeitgeist of Britpop, into which they were never going to fit. Then there were Crispinís hippy-dippy pronouncements and pseudo-mysticism and a few records that failed to ignite. In fact, itís fair to say that a lot of people developed a hatred of the band, partially helped along by Millsí ill-judged (and hastily withdrawn) public admiration of swastikas and Nazi uniforms. After a shelf life of only 3 years and 2 albums, Kula Shaker split.
This is a new era and itís pretty much the same band but with a lot more Hammond organ, throwing us further back towards Crispinís spiritual home, the sixties. The sound is a rather splendid fusion of nineties baggy and minor-label obscurities of the late 1960s. First single, Second Sight, begins very Happy Mondays before turning up the knobs and becoming Primal Scream play the Beach Boys. Die For Love is a monster sized wigout with guitar freakouts. ďIím a dick, Iím a dick, Iím a dictatorĒ, announces the next tune. Itís a rocking, bopping energetic workout. Strangefolk is a strange little announcement about the invisibility of death to the living. Song Of Love goes all Eastern temple chanty on top of a thrumming bass line, in that rising sense of worship popularised by Screamadelica. Hurricane Season is almost a Donovan offering that toggles into a Doors-esque fantasy organ-driven rolling rock-blues. And the rest of the album is much the same, big sound, familiar lyrical territory and a punchy attack, even on the slower spots.
So this is more of the same but much better. Somehow it is easier to accept the wanky ideas of Crispin with a bit of distance from him and the ubiquitous interviews of the time. Taken in context, the fusion of mock-Indian ashram sentiments with psychedelic flashback rock is one that works, especially with huge swathes of Hammond organ turning up the musical colour.