Pop Live: Kula Shaker London Astoria
Friday 09 August 1996
Kula Shaker feel such mindless pop trivia detracts from their message (mindless mysticism). For the everyday Radio One listener, their vague love, peace and LSD schtick is a lot less interesting than their riveting indie-dance flip-out music with its curious fusion of Abraxas-period Santana and EMF gone right. And, although it is quite exciting to see Hayley sat between the moshing kids and Robbie Williams, it is ultimately the tunes that hold the attention.
Set opener and next single, "Hey Dude", is, despite its name, fantastic. It is a lot looser and more fluid than the ubiquitous "Tattva", closer to the Spencer Davies Group's "I'm a Man" than the Haight-Ashbury/late- Beatles sound they emulate for the rest of the evening. It's hard to reconcile Crispian Mills' voice to his appearance. This weird little bird-boned blonde thing has an all-out funky blues voice. "You treat me like a woman when I feel like a man," he wails, actually falling to his knees as he throttles the daylights out of his guitar. Like all great front men, he is vaguely embarrassing (put those see-through trousers away, Iggy/Jesus, not that face again, Jarvis.)
"Jerry Was Here", a tribute to the late Jerry Garcia, is certainly more listenable than anything the Grateful Dead ever put to vinyl. They more than acquit themselves in the face of having had such a big hit so early in their career. Kula Shaker have enough top tunes up their cheesecloth sleeves never to encounter the "Supergrass will now play a medley of their hit" problem. One hears this about every third-division indie non-entity, but his band really are special. For a start, they rip off different riffs to everyone else. Or to put it politely, their reference points are more unusual. Anyone can say "I like The Jam and Blondie, me" and then learn one neurotic chord-change and get an expensive hair cut. Kula Shaker, on the other hand, don't just witter on about Jefferson Airplane and George Harrison - they sound meticulously and gloriously like them, if not better.
Their souls are so obviously in it that it would be churlish to dismiss them as retro - they are musical classicists. At times (the intro to "Grateful When You're Dead"), they threaten to drift into 13-hour Ravi Shankar solo territory. But as anyone who went to Woodstock can tell you, it was just 13 hours of Ravi Shankar. Bless 'em. Accurate to the last detail.
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