Review: Kula Shaker, Strange Folk
Kula Shaker burst on the music scene in 1996 when their album K debuted at #1 on the UK charts. They briefly burned brightly and then flamed out. Band leader Crispian Mills (son of actress Hayley Mills) announced that they would be the biggest band in the world before the century ended. Instead he went on a spiritual pilgrimage to India, the band released a second album that didn’t live up to expectations, and the group split up. Now they’re back.
In their initial incarnation Kula Shaker played an amalgam of 60’s psychedelic pop and Indian music. Strange Folk retains the interest in psychedelic pop but tones down the Indian influences. The album is a decidedly mixed bag of musical styles. Opening tracks “Out on the Highway” and “Second Sight” are both big rock numbers with the 60’s influence most prominent on “Second Sight”. “Song of Love/Narayana” is a mercifully brief bit of noodling overlaid with a heavily processed spoken vocal that I’m guessing is supposed to be deep but comes across as artsty-fartsy inanity. “Hurricane Season” is Crispian Mills pretending he’s Bob Dylan. “Great Dictator of the Free World” is an anti-Bush song that sees Mills singing a chorus of “I’m a dick / I’m a dick / I’m a dictator of the free world” in his best sissy warbling alto. It’s hilarious. “Persephone” is sing-song, acoustic folk. It’s dreadful. “6ft Down Blues” is a dirty rock blues with a vocal that doesn’t have half the grit it needs to pull the song off. And so it goes. Stange Folk indeed.
Strange Folk is a wild set that includes music that ranges from good to terrible. Fans of the original group will be interested to hear what they’re up to now. If you go with this one be prepared for a wide range of both musical styles and quality. Nice cover art though.
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