Kula Shaker release Natural Magick today, an album which reunites the lineup from the late-’90s albums K and Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts. The band played live last year, and more dates are to come. Finally, with Natural Magick, this often misunderstood band are back, and MetalTalk’s Steve Ritchie is very happy.
Kula Shaker – Natural Magick (Strange Folk Records)
Release Date: 2 February 2024
Words: Steve Ritchie
Like Nirvana in 1992 who made the record companies, especially in America, ditch the bands and artists on their rosters to push ahead with Seattle-sounding bands, so Oasis were the curse for many in the BritPop era.
Kula Shaker would be a beneficiary of this, though, when signing with Columbia Records. Five singles would hit the Top 10 UK charts. The more ‘straightforward’ Hey Dude and their version of Deep Purples Hush would hit the number two spot.
Therein lay the issue. Oasis, like most Britpop artists, were pretty one-dimensional, lacking in painting musical pictures of emotion and vibrancy. Kula Shaker had this in spades.
K would set a record for the fastest-selling debut album and introduce hundreds of thousands to the band’s psychedelic rock style. This album did not have one single weak track for me. The follow-up, Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts, was equally spectacular to my ears.
Time would show that the band was not happy with the sound of the debut, wanting a more analogue-sounding and less radio-friendly style. Mystical Machine Gun, released as a single from the second album, would confuse the radio-listening punters a bit more.
Why? Well, Kula Shaker were always a live band. They were not a Britpop band. They were much better than that. Look at the Mystical Machine Gun live performance on TFI Friday on YouTube.
The beauty of their music was getting involved in the album versions, with the mouthwatering appeal of live shows to follow. Where the first two albums were, and still are essential listening for me, so Natural Magick carries on this tradition wonderfully.
Gaslighting opens the album. “The revolution will not be streamed across social media platforms,” sings Crispian. The song is backed by a simple riff. Jay Darlington is back with that fantastic keys style. Alonza Bevan (bass) and Paul Winterhart (drums) are doing what they do best. It was and still is an exciting combination.
Waves follows and then the title song is introduced. Crispian has a talent for a riff, and it works really well in this song. The strength of the band is the musical interaction between the four. The Bevan and Winterhart pairing is as artistic and solid as always.
Chura Liya (You Stole My Heart) is out there. Kula Shaker may be known for their traditional Indian leanings, but this song has me donning my Clint Eastwood poncho.
Something Dangerous, with its Zeppelin-unplugged-inspired intro, is a blast. A beer around the campfire and the stuff of ’70s-style musical relaxation.
It’s a bit out of the blue, but Stay With Me Tonight is a beautiful ballad. There are so many elements to immerse yourself in. Whistle And I Will Come To You is a more straightforward piece, while Kalifornia Blues has a hook to pull you in and will be another great one to hear live.
The album closes on Give Me Tomorrow, proving that Kula Shaker can pull out a 70’s inspired ‘commercial’ record, but with their unique sugar coating on top.
When Crispian heard the final mix of Grateful When You’re Dead from their debut K, he thought it sounded terrible. The Who at The Isle of White was how he wanted to hear the band.
It’s been almost 25 years since the release of Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts. The lineup is back. They are doing more live shows, and this is where they gleam. Natural Magick is a tantalising, welcome and long overdue return. Finally, some things are right in the world again.
“Let love be your sunshine.”
Kula Shaker – Natural Magick is available from here.