December 09, 1996 12:00 PM

Kula Shaker

First the bad news: Kula Shaker is shamelessly derivative with an aural palette that blends familiar strains of the Beatles, the Yardbirds, Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar, among others. Now the real news: despite that hippy-dippy dependency, K is one of the year’s most enjoyable records. Seven of the 13 tracks are artful enough to be single-worthy. Kula Shaker has already conquered its native land, at least temporarily dethroning Oasis as Britain’s hottest band (this debut album hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts). It seems fitting that the band’s mod front man, singer, songwriter and guitarist Crispian Mills, 23, would unabashedly embrace the ’60s. His mother is Hayley Mills, who as a 15-year-old starred in Disney’s 1961 hit The Parent Trap. It was also the decade in which Eastern mysticism and music became popular in the West, and Kula Shaker (named after an ancient Indian emperor) resurrects the trend. Indeed, two of K’s most dazzling songs—”Govinda” and “Tattva”—are sung partly in Sanskrit while electric guitars and a Hammond organ merge seamlessly with sitars, tablas and tamboras. The rest of the album is filled with infectious psychedelic rockers including “Hey Dude” and “Smart Dogs.” This debut is no less thrilling than the latter tune’s “freaky roller-coaster ride.” (Columbia)

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