"If you know your history/ You will read between the lines," sang Kula Shaker's guiding light, Crispian Mills, during "Grateful When You're Dead" at the 9:30 club Monday night. And while the members of this English band are avid students of music history (major in psychedelic, minor in Indian styles), their set was more Oasis than "Norwegian Wood."
Mills, son of old-school Disney actress Hayley Mills, led the group through an enjoyable 75-minute set that eschewed much of the Indian instrumentation on its recordings and aimed for a rawer garage rock/Britpop synthesis that came pretty close to the bull's-eye.
"Mystical Machine Gun," "Great Hosannah," "Tattva" and "303" came with flashing lights that wouldn't have been out of place in "swinging" London's legendary UFO Club. Jay Darlington's crashing keyboards combined with Mills's guitar to propel sparkling covers of nuggets like Hawkwind's "Hurry On Sundown," while bassist Alonza Bevan and drummer Paul Winterhart (aided by a percussionist) added a peppery propulsion that was unmistakably late '90s Britpop.
A big draw on their native soil, Kula Shaker (named for an ancient Indian emperor) is still trying to move beyond cult status in the States. To those in the modest but die-hard crowd at the 9:30 club, it seemed obvious that Mills's outfit deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as higher-profile contemporaries like Oasis, Pulp and Blur.