Release Date: Feb 12, 2016
Record label: Strangefolk
Say what you like about Kula Shaker, they did manage to sneak an ancient Indian hymn into the UK Top 10. Reaching No. 7 in 1996, ‘Govinda’ remains the only British top ten hit to be sung entirely in Sanskrit and, sure, you could denounce them as culturally appropriating poshos, but pretty much all rock‘n’roll is appropriation of the most ham-fisted variety and to their credit Kula Shaker were lifting ideas from more imaginatively global and spiritual sources than Noel Gallagher with his plagiarised Slade riffs and Gary Glitter lyrics.
Exactly 20 years on from their number one début album K, Kula Shaker’s K2.0 offers a similar mix of psychedelic indie rock and Indian spirituality. The title also references the Himalayan mountain, while the cover features a multi-armed Hindu goddess, suggesting the Eastern inspiration remains potent, although there are other influences too in an eclectic work. They may have arrived at the fag-end of Britpop in 1996, but Kula Shaker seemed like they were a throwback to the late 60s, with Donovan/George Harrison-style hippie mysticism beefed up by the harder-edged rock of The Doors and early Deep Purple.
Fifth album from often reviled sitar rockers. Crispian Mills was a Britpop-era kicking boy, partly through some sense that the spawn of a famous acting dynasty (he’s Hayley Mills’s son; Sir John Mills’s grandson) was slumming/faking it, partly due to a tendency to run his mouth off and partly because of the extent to which he was in hock to the psychedelic 60s. .
Kula Shaker get to the Version 2.0 joke nearly two decades after Garbage, but never let it be said that the band wishes to live in the present. Ever since forming at the height of Brit-pop, Kula Shaker set their sights on the golden age of the late '60s, an era of enduring peace, love, harmony, and other psychedelic notions. Two decades later, they remain besotted with those halcyon post-Pepper days but there's an additional wrinkle of nostalgia to 2016's K 2.0, which is designed as an explicit sequel to their 1996 debut, K.
In 1996, Kula Shaker were one of the biggest bands in Britain, as their speedy-selling debut album, K, stormed to No 1 with a blend of 60s rocking, Britpop, Arthurian legend and Indian mysticism. Two decades on, their fifth album doesn’t journey too far from the sound of old hits such as Tattva and Govinda: it starts with a flourish of sitars, and finds frontman Crispian Mills roaring “We are one, the infinite sun”. The blond-locked frontman hasn’t lost his gift for tunes, and Holy Flame is reminiscent of Blur’s Coffee and TV.
Kula Shaker emerged in 1996 as both immensely popular and hugely disparaged. The British group's inclusion of Eastern sonics and mystic vibe set it apart from its Britpop contemporaries, as well as providing an unshakeable identifier to its creations. That element is still there, 20 years later on Kula Shaker's fifth album, K 2.0. K 2.0's title sounds like it might be a re-mastered-plus-bonus-tracks version of their debut, K, but is, in fact, billed as a "companion piece" to that two-decade old great work.