Kula Shaker, K, 1996, Columbia
Knight on the Town
Temple of Everlasting Light
Into the Deep
Grateful When You're Dead/Jerry Was There
Start All Over
Hollow Man (Parts 1 & 2)
Psychedelic rockers Kula Shaker are seen as post-Britpop despite their debut album being released at the height of Britpop. Heavily inspired by Indian culture, indeed their name was adapted from that of an eighth century Indian emperor, they mixed traditional Indian instruments with guitar focused rock and perhaps this was why they were not seen as truly being a part of the Britpop wave. Other influences included The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix and K has a heavy focus on spirituality. The album’s cover art comprises images of things or people whose names begin with the letter K.
Hey Dude has a very strong Happy Mondays vibe, maracas are always fun too, although the intro sounds very much like their later cover of Hush which would go on to become their most famous single. Knight of the Town is a decent heavier drum track. Temple of Everlasting Light is the first song where the influence of the Indian instruments is clear, it’s a much gentler song than its predecessors. Govinda, the lyrics of which are entirely in Sanskrit continues this theme. The Beatles-esque Smart Dogs and Into the Deep are both more standard 1960s style rock songs. Successful single Tattva is probably the highlight of the album, the juxtaposition of all the influences just works really well here and doesn’t feel jarring. The guitar work on Grateful When You're Dead/Jerry Was There is brilliant, it’s another harder, rockier track. 303 continues the guitar focus with a fun ode to everyone’s favourite not-quite motorway (known as the “highway to the sun” the A303 is the main route from London to the popular tourist areas of Devon and Cornwall in the south west of England). Unfortunately it’s followed by the pretty forgettable Start All Over and Hollow Man (Parts 1 & 2).
K went two times platinum but despite their commercial success, a lot of people seem to really hate Kula Shaker. I can’t summon up the energy for that strong a reaction. This album isn’t bad, but my overriding feeling is that it’s fine, which I suppose is an indictment on its own. There are three decent songs and ten tracks that range from mediocre to forgettable. None of it is truly awful, its just that, despite the variety of interesting influences that fed into the creation of this album, Kula Shaker didn’t manage to produce anything that felt new but rather seem to have made a 1960s album 30 years too late. I remember really enjoying this album when it was released but it just doesn’t seem to have aged that well. Still, at least this proves that not everyone in the UK in 1996 wanted to be a Gallagher.