They’re all at it. The Stooges, The Police, Jesus and Mary Chain, Happy Mondays, Wedding Present, The Pixies, etc, etc. Reuniting that is. There’s a potentially lucrative market out there for all these bands who can tap into a pool of loyal original fans and those too young first time around but curious to see what all the fuss was about.
Now, following last year’s The Revenge of the King EP and a few live gigs, Kula Shaker are jumping firmly on the bandwagon with a European tour and a new album out later this year.
OK, this news may not be greeted with a rapturous response by many punters to whom the words Kula Shaker mean pretentious and derivative (to be polite). A lot of the negative press the band has had is due to their leader Crispian Mills talking a lot of bollocks off (and sometimes on) stage, especially getting his knickers into a twist with remarks about the swastika some years back.
But arsehole that he undoubtedly can be, as the driving force behind the band Mills is a genuinely talented (if not original) singer-songwriter, largely responsible for their highly successful 1997 debut album K and the underrated follow-up Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts two years later. Their brand of retro psychedelic rock mixed with a seasoning of Indian mysticism spawned some great songs such as Tattva and Hey Dude. Eight years after splitting up, can Kula Shaker hack it on stage?
The answer is yes – up to a point. Before they come on, an unsigned Hungarian band called The Puzzle, now based in London and singing in English, deliver their own angst-ridden psychedelic performance, including the impressive forthcoming single You’re So Cruel and a spirited version of Bowie’s Suffragette City. With the support of Alan McGee, they just might make it if they work more on the songwriting.
Kula Shaker make a quiet start but gradually warm up as their 75-minute set unfolds – it’s surprising they don’t hit the ground running as it’s only two days after their Hoxton gig. But after such a long time out of the limelight maybe a little tentativeness is understandable – they definitely give the impression of feeling their way back into the scene. And of course the band is not quite what it was: the original outstanding keyboard player Jay Darlington has been replaced by Harry Broadbent, so that the former soaring organ sound is now more muted.
Old favourites like Grateful When You’re Dead and The Sound of Drums go down well, as does the more recent political song Dictator of the Free World, but it still feels like the band is holding back. The new material from forthcoming album Strangefolk, including next single Second Sight, sounds pretty similar in style and quality to the music the band were playing in the late 90s – which will either reassure diehard fans or confirm the worst fears of sceptics, depending on your point of view. It doesn’t sound like Kula Shaker want to re-invent themselves.
Eventually Mills and the band relax and loosen up, producing some beautifully melodic and hypnotically rhythmic sounds, accompanied by the inevitable gyrating of hands in the air, Indian-style. Tattva is greeted by the audience like a long-lost friend, Hey Dude is a hugely enjoyable experience and a breakneck-speed version of Hush gets the crowd moving compulsively. An encore of Govinda ends the evening on a high note.
So the Komeback Kids are reincarnated… as themselves: love them or loathe them, don’t be surprised if they’re all over the airwaves later this year. Krikey.