Album Review: Kula Shaker – Pilgrims Progress
Back in the heyday of the late 90’s Britpop scene, Kula Shaker were due to become the next big thing. They had a blast of success with the release of their 1996 debut number one record, K, and the album seemed like the perfect induction into the world of excess. The band even overtook the Spice Girls at the 1997 Brit Awards by taking home the gong for Best British Breakthrough Act along with three further nominations.
Since then the band have had their ups and downs with band member departures, controversy and a split and have never really managed to sustain the same level of success but now Kula Shaker are back after a three year absence with their latest offering, Pilgrim’s Progress.
Psychedelic rock is the order of the day with Pilgrim’s Progress and the album is the bands fourth studio album and first since 2007’s Strangefolk. Fronted by the controversial and outspoken vocalist Crispian Mills, the album serves as an updated refresher course in what this band produced back in the 90’s.
The cover of the record features a picture of the Kensington Gardens sculpture of Peter Pan and the albums opening track Peter Pan RIP sets the record alight with its haunting and dark cello chords setting the tone for undoubtedly the most mature release we have had from these guys.
All Dressed Up, the closing Winters Call with its brief yet sweet French spoken word section and an impressive electric guitar solo and Figure It Out are the stand outs on this collection with their rich 60’s RnB feel. Mill’s strong vocals, particularly on the infectious latter track which is accompanied perfectly by the bands hippie vibe, make this a worldly mix of eclecticism and fun. Figure It Out needs particular mention on this record simply because it captures this band at its close knit best and the track in my personal opinion is one to rival any of the hits of the bands past.
The simple and acoustic Cavalry is a subtle and gentle addition to bring the album a softer moment whilst When A Brave Meets A Maid provides the record with its token Indian influenced instrumental.
There is a lot that Kula Shakers new album offers. Its appeal isn’t limited to the bands pre-millennium followers but is open to a possible new fan base. It’s almost antique in its production and brings back flashes of the days when bands like Oasis, Blur, Reef, Ocean Colour Scene and these guys were on the same successful playing field. Though the band have moved on considerably from what was created back in those days they still hold tightly to the familiarity of the successful Kula Shaker sound.
The band are still clearly capable of writing catchy and thought provoking numbers and show with Pilgrim’s Progress that they have still got what it takes in the current world of electro pop mania.