We continue our exploration of the greatest debut albums by Britpop bands with numbers 18, 17 and 16…an unholy, maybe unheard, trinity of calling cards from bands who shoulda been contenders.
Elcka – Rubbernecking (1997)
Let’s deal with it.
You are right.
This might well be the worst cover for an album in the history of music.
So much poor quality photo-shop.
The water-ski thing.
The look on the model’s face.
The colour palette.
Everything about it is just awful.
And yet what lurks beneath is some of the most wonderful pop music of the nineties.
Drawing on the glories of “Disintegration” era The Cure and eighties electro-pop as well as the usual indie reference points, Elcka managed to deliver an album that was grand, dark, operatic, gothic, anthemic and peculiar in ways that few other bands of the era managed…or even considered.
“Supercharged”, “Fill Me”, “Statuesque”, “Leather Lips”, “Boho Bird” and “Pervert’s Servant” are all songs that should on your heavy rotation list. With an utterly unique vocal performance from Harrold, a blend of Robert Smith at his wonkiest and Morrissey at his most grandiose and musicians who have clearly determined to be better than simply ready before they entered the studio the whole thing sounds polished and cared for in a way that certain other debut albums of the time didn’t manage (hello “Nuisance”) and it is a crime that more people don’t cherish this.
Geneva – Further (1997)
I wrote a very lengthy piece on “Further” just a few weeks ago so you will forgive me for being lazy and simply pointing you in the direction of that piece instead of trying to find new ways to say, essentially, the same things.
The short version is…this is brilliant.
Not just songs.
Hymns for the living dead.
“Don’t be too harsh, life is too much.”
It’s easy to judge.
Easier still to laugh.
It takes guts to be gentle and kind.
For some life really is, at least in moments, too much.
We don’t need to cheer up.
We don’t need to pick ourselves up.
Who knows what we need.
Wings that are temporary…we can take flight but the crash is inevitable.
Here is the longer version…FURTHER
Kula Shaker – K (1996)
A glorious, psychedelic, prog-rockin’, blues-burstin’, Eastern mystic-in’, pedal to the metal, pop riot.
My first exposure to Kula Shaker came with the arrival of the blistering slice of sixties psychedelia that is “Grateful When You’re Dead/Jerry Was There” which burst into the charts at number 35 back in 1996. Quite the achievement for a song that paid tribute to a band that few other “Britpoppers” were paying any heed to. It was also rich in the sounds of the East. That love of Eastern culture dogged the band with accusations of cultural appropriation for a while but the truth of the matter is that there was nothing “minstrelsy” about what they were doing. Kula Shaker were magpies, casting their hungry eyes in all directions and taking whatever shone most brightly.
It is also true that lead Shaker, Crispian Mills, is no tourist in the world of Eastern beliefs. In 1997 he was given a spiritual Hare Krishna name of Krishna Kantha das, a result of his long and, seemingly, deep rooted commitment to Hindu philosophy and Hare Krishna teachings. That is something a bit more real than your Notting Hill yoga teacher yelping “Namaste” at the end of a particularly challenging downward dog.
(The Mild Mannered Army, “Oh K“)
Even now hearing “Grateful When You’re Dead” makes the hairs that are left on my head stand to attention.
“K” as a whole is a wonderful thing…riffs and licks, melodies, head bangers, butt shakers, sixties soaked in the very best way. Future retro. It sounds like an album from another time…and it’s impossible to know if that other time is 1968, 1977 or 2154. It’s also worth noting that, as a live band, there are few who can hold a candle to Crispian and the gang.
A cracker, a corker and a stone cold classic.