It's 1999 and if you can't enjoy a mad, mystical, end-of-the-world-is-nigh, concept album now, when can you?
If nothing else, you’ve got to admire their (crystal) balls. Having been derided as far-right space cadets, you might have expected Crispian Mills and his New Age stormtroopers to return with something a little more circumspect. Well, forget that.
‘Peasants, Pigs And Astronauts’ is an unrepentant and farcical return, everything that ‘K’, Kula Shaker‘s million-selling debut, was – except multiplied by a thousand. It’s an amazing album, remarkable even, and quite definitely the most ludicrous rock’n’roll record that you’re going to hear all year.
Of course, some of you will have already decided to boycott it on moral grounds, but, hey, why bother? Kula Shaker might be dumb, but they’re not Nazis. Operating out of the same cosmic cul-de-sac as Glenn Hoddle and David Icke, they’ve got no idea what they’re saying. And, let’s face it, nor has anyone else. They talk nonsense, they’ve been to India – who knows? – maybe they even like scented joss sticks, it’s hardly a crime, though, is it?
Besides, for all their mind-expanding, erm, spirituality, Kula Shaker are essentially just a trad rock band. Mentally they might be in orbit, but musically they’re a neat and tidy approximation of late-’60s/early-’70s mod-psychedelia, with the flares and mysticism on 11. There are no transcendental freakouts here, just good time boogie, and bongos. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For a start, this record sounds brilliant. Bob Ezrin‘s production is so slick and crystalline you almost forget that most of it reminds you of Joseph And His Technicolor Dreamcoat. Having made his name with Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and Kiss, Ezrin knows all about putting a sheen on the ridiculous, and that’s what he does here, letting Kula Shaker run riot with chants, choirs, bird song, sitars and, possibly ill-advisedly, bagpipes.
While Crispian‘s off pretending to be Jesus ([I]”This is the age of decay and hypocrisy/Sometimes I feel like the world/Isn’t ready for me”[/I]), the rest of the band attempt to keep dignity levels above water with their ultra-proficient take on ’60s garage. The two singles, ‘Mystical Machine Gun’ and ‘Sound Of Drums’, are both masterpieces of overblown pop-psychedelia, all manic Hammonds and tripped-out guitar effects, but they’re more than matched by the psyche-mod grooves of ‘SOS’ and ‘108 Battles’ (key mystical lyric: [I]”There’s thunder in the skies/And I’m frightened of what it’s doing”[/I]). Sadly, though, they can only keep it up for so long.
About halfway through the scent of patchouli oil and jazz fags becomes so overpowering you can almost smell it coming out of the stereo. At which point we bid farewell to concise rock’n’roll and hello to drony prayer meetings and the last Pink Floyd album. ‘Timeworm’ is every bit as awful as its title suggests, while the grand finale of ambient bird song and spiritual reflection (‘Namami Nanda-Nandana’) will make you want to slap Mills in the face with a spicy nan.
Obviously they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it, but the thing is, they’re going to anyway. This album is going to be massive, because Kula Shaker are currently providing a service unavailable elsewhere. No-one else is making such a spirited attempt to embrace the ridiculous – and you can either sit there and sulk about it, or laugh along with/at them. After all, it’s 1999 – and if you can’t enjoy a mad, mystical, end-of-the-world-is-nigh, concept album now, when can you?