Sharps and Flats: Kula Shaker

Keith Moerer reviews Kula Shaker's "K".

Published December 26, 1996 8:00PM (EST)

since it's unlikely that Oasis will last long enough to ape the Beatles' flirtation with the Maharishi, it's probably fitting that the latest British buzz band, Kula Shaker, has adopted an Indian swami and beaten the Gallagher brothers to it. But while Kula Shaker's lead singer, Crispian Mills, traveled thousands of miles in search of enlightenment, all we get is an album full of second-hand psychedelia and third-rate mysticism.

Of course, it's easy to understand why the four guys in Kula Shaker have emerged as gurus of Britain's emerging H.O.R.D.E. nation: They kept their jam-band tendencies in check to produce the glorious Sanskrit bubble-pop of "Tattva," as silly and retro-cool perfect as Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Going My Way?" But once you get past the sound of tablas, swirling organs, and wah-wah guitars, the band's brand of enlightenment is every bit as callow as the Beach Boys' quest for the perfect car and girl. On "303," Mills trades in the little deuce coupe for a Mercedes Benz and finds Nirvana while driving, stoned, on the freeway: "Dark times? Gotta let it go/Because I got my stash/And I love my hash/Yeah, got my stash/Think I'll grow myself a big ol' hairy mustache." You can bet his swami, A.C. Bhaktivedanta, is proud.

Throughout "K," Kula Shaker borrows liberally from the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Stone Roses and even proto-metal masters Deep Purple. Mills has said that the blues-rock/space jam known as "Grateful When You're Dead/Jerry was There" is actually a joke, but not even Ween could keep a straight face singing lines like "Jerry was there/Jerry was there/You could feel his presence everywhere/I seen him man/Looked me right in the face." You won't get a defense of the Dead from me, but Kula Shaker isn't exactly the best band to poke fun at pseudo-spiritualism. On "Smart Dogs," Mills boasts that he's "dancing in your shadow/I was riding through a different state of mind/No one can perceive the state I'm in/It's like the living world is blind." Think how stupid he's going to feel when the hash wears off.

By Keith Moerer

Keith Moerer is a regular contributor to Salon.

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