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After nearly a decade Britpoppers
Kula Shaker resurface

Kula Shaker - Strangefolk
(Cooking Vinyl)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 28, 2008
Kula Shaker

Review by Tony Bonyata

Emerging from a nine-year absence from the music scene the multi-platinum selling UK band Kula Shaker have created their third full-length effort, Strangefolk, and it sounds like '96 all over again. But that's not necessarily a bad thing considering that's when Britain's defiant answer to the American grunge scene, Britpop, was at its height.

Instead of utilizing the heavy riffs and punk rock ethos that Seattle's grunge acts did, bands such as Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Suede mined through Britain's best (Beatles, Bowie, Bolan and The Kinks) to knick guitar riffs, melodies and sing about the English working class. Kula Shaker's extremely successful debut album was released in the throws of Britpop in '96, but there was something a little different about their approach. While the British influence was definitely there (stinging guitars, pop hooks and drawling British accent), Kula Shaker, led by Crispian Mills (son of '60s actress Hayley Mills), also incorporated traditional East Indian influences, Sanskrit singing and a whirling dervish of psychedelic guitars, which help set them slightly apart from their Britpop contemporaries.

While fans have had to wait nearly a decade for the band to put anything new out since their 1999 sophomore album, Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts, their latest effort Strangefolk finds the band, more or less, picking up where they left off - as if Britpop was still the ruling monarch of music, while still adding a pinch of their own Indian spices and medieval harmonies to the mix. The spirited, psychedelic number "Song Of Love / Narayana," which incorporates the simplistic rhythm and piano-line of The Stooges' 1969 song "I Wanna Be Your Dog," transforms into something otherworldly with spectral Eastern incantations, while the sinewy rocker "6ft Down Blues" showcases the dexterity of both the band and Mills' song craft. They also manage to incorporate a bit of late 60s Prog Rock on the track "Second Sight" to keep things interesting, if not dated.

More than anything, though, songs such as the shoe-gazing pounder "Out On the Highway," which sounds as if it could've easily been a song by The Verve, the sunny pop of "Great Dictator (Of The Free World)" and the earthy vibe of The Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies album on the closing number "Super CB Operator," shows that this band hasn't lost their taste for the sounds of classic Britpop - even if it's not totally in step with the times anymore.

Watch Kula Shaker - "Great Dictator (of the Free World)" video

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