Wednesday 11 July 2012

Clandestine Classic XXVII - Hey Dude

Kula Shaker. Control yourselves, ladies.The 27th post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

I'm in two minds what to say about today's featured act, Kula Shaker. It would be easy to dismiss them as ridiculous indie fluff, slipstreaming in the wake of the Britpop behemoth. Even back then (then being 1996), I was a bit cynical. The whole "we're so into Indian mysticism we've got songs called Tattva and Govinda" seemed a bit contrived to me, a bit deliberate. Maybe unfairly, I thought this was little more than a ruse, an attempt to have a USP that would get them in the NME. And as if that wasn't enough, much was made of lead singer's Crispian Mill's showbusiness lineage - son of Hayley, grandson of Sir John - as if that in itself was enough to warrant press coverage and record sales. I scoffed. I tutted. I probably rolled my eyes. And then I heard today's Clandestine Classic and went out and bought the album.

And it - K, from 1996 - is not bad. Not bad at all. Yes, there's plenty of that "we're so into India" stuff that felt contrived but, for the most part, the sitar, tabla, tamboura and the rest all work. Today's classic doesn't feature any of them though. I guess you'd say Hey Dude plays it straight, relying on phasing and guitar effects to achieve some moderate psychedelia. And the punters loved it, with Hey Dude soaring to number 2 in the UK singles chart (some might say that's too successful to be clandestine, but I make the rules). I loved it too, and here's why.

Those first twenty seconds, the intro - it really rolls! There's an excellent, driving bassline which suddenly breaks off leaving a tingling guitar which you just know means something percussive is headed our way. And then bang, that something arrives and it's a fast, pedal-to-the-metal rock and roll riff with slightly trippy lyrics and a singalong chorus. It belts along, this song, and more than most post-Britpop indie of that period, it's a song that yearns to be cranked up loud in the car (provided your ICE can handle plenty of bass). It will make you drive faster, this song.

At about 2 minutes 45 there's a proper guitar break too, about as close to rocking out as jangly Britpop could get. And then the ending, in which rather than just stopping of fading out, the whole song is allowed to change down through the gears, get it's breath back, and roll to a dignified stop.

I can forgive a lot for this song. I can certainly forgive any mystic pretensions. It gets trotted out occasionally at my local 90s indie club night (Britpoppin', that's called, accurately if somewhat unimaginatively) and it still sounds bloody great through big, bassy club speakers. But you don't have to drag yourself clubbing to hear it - you can pick up the album here, or maybe download something of interest here. And then there's always YouTube. The video has worn alright too, don't you think?

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