29 March 2006

Overlooked Albums from the 90's - #25

K by Kula Shaker

You know this album right? You heard it at some party back in the day and liked it so much you went out and bought it...or, your roommate had it because he was so into English music at the time that he'd buy ANYthing that came from the UK and you guys used to hang out and smoke weed and listen to it thinking "damn, so this is what the 60's sounded like". Right? No? You got it because it was the next logical step after your Oasis infatuation subsided? Or you mean to tell me you never actually listened to this album before...?

Whatever your own personal history with Kula Shaker is, I'll bet you ultimately fall into one of two categories: you either haven't heard K before, or you gave it up for dead years ago. I'm telling you that it's about time to give this album a(nother) listen. The 60's inspired psychedelic guitar jams will get you movin' and a groovin' in a way that seems strangely refreshing now that the entire music world takes its inspiration from 1979-85.

AllMusic gives the album 3 stars:

"By the mid-'90s, most bands had abandoned the sounds and sensibilities of late-'60s psychedelia, which is what makes Kula Shaker's debut album, K, such a weird, bracing listen. The band doesn't simply revive the swirling guitar and organ riffs of psychedelia, it embraces the mysticism and Eastern spirituality that informed the music. On both "Tattva" and "Govinda," lead singer Crispian Mills has adapted portions of Sanskrit text for the lyrics, chanting Indian mantras without a hint of embarrassment. Similarly, Kula Shaker are unashamed about their devotion to Hendrix, Traffic, and the Beatles, cutting their traditionalist tendencies with an onslaught of volume, overdriven guitars, and catchy melodies -- though they have a song called "Grateful When You're Dead," all of their psychedelic sensibilities derive from British rock, not the more experimental American counterpart. Kula Shaker may play well -- they have a powerful rush that makes you temporarily forget how classicist their music actually is -- but they still have trouble coming up with hooks. About half the record ("Hey Dude," "Tattva," "Govinda," "Grateful When You're Dead") has strong melodies, while the rest just rides by on the band's instrumental skills. Consequently, much of K doesn't stick around once the record is finished, but the singles remain excellent blasts of colorful neo-psychedelia."
And I'd agree with most of what is said there. Hey dude, not every album in this feature is/was 100% certified classic - far from it in fact. The (unstated) mission of the feature was to remind myself, and others, of albums from the 90's that aren't currently given the attention they're due. Be they largely unknown albums or albums that sold a relatively large number of copies...hopefully you'll find that a wide range of albums are ultimately covered here once the list is finally concluded. (When will that actually happen? Nobody knows for sure, but we've got at least another 15 to go before it's time to consider what happens next. Anyway, back to Kula Shaker.)

With a few songs that are of 5 star quality and a few that are more worthy of 2 star ratings, I'd give the album around a 3.5/5. The beauty is, K achieves something special when listened to in its entirity and makes for some damn near perfect warm weather music. Sure, the warm weather has not yet begun to really warm up but I'm anxious for it to happen. Play these songs loud and bring on Spring!

Listen:Previous Overlooked Albums from the 90's:
#1 - Saturnalia by The Wedding Present
#2 - The Inevitable by Squirrel Nut Zippers
#3 - This is Our Music by Galaxie 500
#4 - Dusk by The The
#5 - Fantasma by Cornelius
#6 - New Wave by The Auteurs
#7 - I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman
#8 - Futureworld by Trans Am
#9 - Harmacy by Sebadoh
#10 - Cure For Pain by Morphine
#11 - God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
#12 - Seven by James
#13 - Why Do Birds Sing? by Violent Femmes
#14 - Blank-Wave Arcade by The Faint
#15 - Dog Man Star by Suede
#16 - Beatsongs by The Blue Aeroplanes
#17 - Don't Try This At Home by Billy Bragg
#18 - 1992: The Love Album by Carter USM
#19 - Time Was Gigantic...When We Were Kids by The Durutti Column
#20 - Psalm 69 by Ministry
#21 - The Dirtchamber Sessions, Vol. 1 by The Prodigy
#22 - Going Blank Again by Ride
#23 - Love At Absolute Zero by My Favorite
#24 - Placebo by Placebo

if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list

Another site does their own "Overlooked of the 90's":
Top 30 'Other' Albums of the '90s

16 comments:

vjb2 said...

"K" and Kula Shaker's followup "Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts" are both fabulous examples of psychedelic revival done right. I've sadly not had a chance to hear any of Crispin Mills' followup band The Jeevas, but I imagine it's more of the same. Fortunately, KS has announced they're reforming, so I look forward to where their sound will go now.

supergurg said...

havent heard these guys for years! thanks for reminding me!

jeffro said...

yep, Kula Shaker's output was very much overlooked - i think "PP&A" was a bit stronger than their initial album, but they're both wonderful bits of psychedelic revival - KS reforming? very cool! i'll have to look into it!

Sean said...

Another great pick! I was all over this album...and the follow-up I also liked.

Bonnie said...

How is it that you're always profiling albums I love from the 90's? Heh, I've had "Hey Dude" and "Govinda" on my iPod since I got it.

marathonpacks said...

The mellotron break in "Tattva" is straight up "Strawberry Fields". Great record.

My word verification: "ewpphim", as in "ewpphimism".

c said...

i also loved this album when it came out. the whole oasis, stone roses-vibe, mixed with beatles psychadelia. but then these guys got accused of being nazis. and somehow the music didn't sound so pretty after that...

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Falling out of love with your choices Matt.. Maybe i'm too much of an English Americanophile for your American Anglophile tastes.... This album, which I know intimately, tastes like moldy Stone Roses riffs sprinkled liberally with irritating mid 90's Oasis obsessed hipsters....

Are we mirrors? I rebelled in 95 against this stuff by listening to Soundgarden.. You were the opposite, weren't ya?

I do love the site.. So please don't just nix this for criticising your latest pik.

Matt said...

come now, i welcome people criticising this stuff. it's just as much fun as comments that agree with what i say.

but i think you've hit it right on the head. i remember going to London in '97 (or so) and finding myself amazed when some of the people i met there that were my age (who seemed cool) liked all of the American crap (like Soundgarden) that i was avoiding and none of the English stuff i liked.

nonetheless, don't fear folks - there's plenty of variety coming up soon in this little feature here.

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Yes, I think that was the way of it. In the mid-90's you simply couldn't get away from this scene and it's chart domination. Also '97 was the year of the Labour election this stuff (crap) got itself associated with (Blair called it "Cool Brittania").

To put it another way, it was the music of the establishment at the time. Muso's hate being stuck with the Establishment, which would be why Damon Albarn put such a huge effort into dissasociating himself with this scene.

Me - I still had the 2 year old Dust album by Screaming Trees circulating on my CD player. Now that was beautiful layered psychedelia, but with bite.

I still rate Mark Lanegan of the Trees 10 years down the line, go get the album he's just put out with Isobel Cambell - It's gorgeous.

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Tooo further the point, it's strange what music you find in different parts of the world caught. Everyone knows the old David Hasselhoff Germany thing. But when I was in Serbia at Christmas it was clear that over there Nick Cave is on a whole different level of fame to in his residence here in the UK. Pop radio pumping out The Mercy Seat.

Not that he doesn't deserve it. Pitchfork will burn in hell missing The Boatman Calls from these lists (one of their writers put it at 60ish, and that was it).. It's so much vastly superior than 50% of the albums on their list it just doesn't merit discussion. A faultless piece of exquisit songwriting.

Anonymous said...

The January this year, kula shaker which announces the revival with the original member after 7 years. < Fuji Rock Festival 06 > to they who decide also participation, the Japanese limited board ' The Revenge Of The King ' release doing decided on July 26th! When the contents which become matter of concern you say, sell with iTunes limitation, ' The Revenge Of The King EP ' in the new tune 4 tune which was recorded, live of debut tune "Grateful When You're Dead" (schedule) one item of the impact which is added! Leading the album which should come, the big present which it directs to just the Japanese fan.

Anonymous said...

As a British person, I find some of these blog entries fascinatingly odd. So many of these bands have been forgotten in the same way that once-ubiquitous things are forgotten, e.g. Anjelica Huston, the heroic Mujahadeen, Vietnam War films, etc.

In the UK, Kula Shaker's "K" was a big mainstream pop hit; the singles were played on the radio and in the shops, the band was featured in magazines and so forth, although really it was just the lead singer who was featured. He had a posh name. K was one of the more visible parts of the Britpop scene. I remember that the music press hated the band, because their lead singer had a posh name, he didn't seem very bright in interviews, and he was a bit patronising towards Indian culture. And he was good-looking in a posh way.

They were one of countless bands that were caught up in the Britpop wave for one album and a clutch of singles, and were then dumped by popular culture (viz Pulp, Catatonia, the Spice Girls etc). The last time I saw the band's lead singer in the news, he was attending the funeral of someone who died in the asian tsunami. And yet "Govinda" still sounds awesome. I think I had a soft spot for the band because they were so unlikely.

I assumed that Kula Shaker sold no records in the USA, but obviously I am wrong. The thought of them having a mild cult following in America seems delightfully strange.

Geir H said...

"Tattva" is still a great single and remains one of the greatest moments of the Britpop era.

The album in general sadly slipped in quality when I heard it some times though.

And "Into The Deep", mentioned by you as a favourite, may have a great chorus, but the verse is a blatant ripoff of "Bye Bye Badmen" by Stone Roses. Which spoils it for me.

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