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Kula Shaker
Strange Folk
Cooking Vinyl Records
www.kulashaker.co.uk


Wow. It seems like an awfully long time since the last Kula Shaker release… in fact, it's been about nine years since their last easily available domestic release. In the meanwhile they've released a couple of EPs available only as imports to us Yanks. They've been good records, maintaining the classic Kula sound, defying new movements in rock, defying radical change. The newest release Strange Folk is certainly no exception.

The album starts off in high Brit fashion with the amazingly groovy and jangly "Out On The Highway". The song reminds us of where Kula Shaker comes from, recalling the grooves of the mid-90's Britpop sounds of contemporaries like The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. The band has seemingly forsaken the obvious Indian influences of their early work in favor of a more mainstream approach, but that idea would be dispelled by one listen to "Second Sight". This track screams with guitars and rhythms reminiscent of great Santana records, melodies straight out of the 60's psychedelic movement, and some sitar-like sounds that become instantly catchy. "Die For Love" is an epic ballad filled with Hammond organ and deliberate guitar/piano rhythms that recall Bob Dylan at his Band-inspired electric fineness. "Great Dictator Of The Free World" is a sparser, but highly rhythmic track that almost fits into the new Jam-centric Ukpop movement, but has more hook and gleam than any young band could muster. It's when the album finally arrives at "Song Of Love/Narayana" that the listener is treated to the fully realized sound that has made Kula Shaker so beloved through the years. There are catchy bass lines that groove with all their might, alongside perfect arrangements and drums with the unmistakable Madchester rhythm, that all buoy up Indian choruses and brightly produced vocal harmonies that undoubtedly prove that Kula Shaker has not faded, but remains at the head of the Britpop pack.

So, write to your congressman and let him know you vote and you vote Kula Shaker. Let Cooking Vinyl know that you appreciate how they've finally brought the classic Britpop cool of Kula back to these American shores for under 25 dollars. Let The Charlatans know that they're not alone and that there is still another band of Englishmen making some amazingly fine rock. And finally, let Kula Shaker know that you still believe in them and their awesome pseudo-nostalgic sound… I know I do.

-Embo Blake


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