New releases for 2 February 2024

The first of this week’s crackers is Kula Shaker’s new album, Natural Magick, on which the band harness the power to cast their most potent spell yet, incorporating blazing psychedelic sermons, raga rave-ups, stardust-coated pop pearls and mood-enhancing mantras. Kula Shaker reformed permanently in 2021 with the return of keyboard wizard Jay Darlington, reuniting all four members of the band’s classic line-up for the first time since 1999.

What Do We Do Now began to come together during the waning days of the pandemic. Working in his own Bisquiteen Studio, J Mascis started writing a series of tunes on acoustic guitar with a different dynamic from the music he creates for Dinosaur Jr. “When I’m writing for the band,” he says, “I’m always trying to think of doing things Lou and Murph would fit into. For myself, I’m thinking more about what I can do with just an acoustic guitar, even for the leads. Of course, this time, I added full drums and electric leads, although the rhythm parts are still all acoustic. Usually, I try to do the solo stuff more simply so I can play it by myself, but I really wanted to add the drums. Once that started, everything else just fell into place. So it ended up sounding a lot more like a band record. I dunno why I did that exactly, but it’s just what happened.

Lights Out was released in May 1977 and became UFO’s biggest album to date, confirming Michael Schenker’s status as the most exciting guitarist in heavy rock. The band was also rejuvenated with personnel changes as keyboardist Paul Raymond replaced Danny Peyronel and Leo Lyons – who had produced the band’s previous three albums – was replaced by Ron Nevison, whose work with Led Zeppelin had impressed, signalling the first in a stellar run of collaborations. An album rich in quality, title track ‘Lights Out’ offers an urgent portrayal of a dystopian London, dripping with “batons charging … the smell of anarchy”. The song was inspired by the same thing that led Joe Strummer to write ‘White Riot’ for The Clash: the Notting Hill riots of August 1976. Closing out the record is what Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris has called his favourite song of all time, ‘Love to Love’, arguably the album’s crowning achievement.

Announced on the 50th anniversary of the album’s original release date, Quadrophenia is now available on 180-gram black double vinyl from audio masters produced by Jon Astley at Close to the Edge and half-speed vinyl masters cut by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios, packaged in its original gatefold sleeve with a 44-page booklet, obi and certificate of authenticity. Quadrophenia was the sixth studio album by The Who, released in October 1973. The band’s third rock opera, often regarded by many as The Who’s best album, features songs ‘The Real Me’, ‘5.15’ and the epic ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. Delve into the complex story of Jimmy Cooper, a Mod coming to terms with life head on.

Originally released in 1996, Warm Nights repositioned Robert Forster as one of the great songwriters of the post-punk era. Robert recalls that producer Edwyn Collins “got the [intended] sound of the album completely: a dry low-end groove pitched somewhere between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Willie Mitchell’s early ’70s Hi Records work.” Towards the end of the sessions some complications arose – and it’s these complications that Robert has seized the chance to remedy for this new release of the album. “It was Edwyn’s idea,” explains Robert, “to bring in a three-piece brass section – it fitted some of the songs beautifully, but it was in the mixing of the brass and the effect it had on the running order that things got complicated, [resulting in] two changes to the album that have been bugging me for 25 years.” This ‘director’s cut’ re-issue features revised tracklisting and previously unreleased material.

Our release of the week comes from The Last Dinner Party – who, just a year ago, was little more than a new name being shared among those who had caught them live: a band with great songs and a strong aesthetic. Having spent much of 2022 writing those songs, road-testing them and then taking them into the studio, it wasn’t until April, when the band released the instantly more-ish, dark guitar-pop of ‘Nothing Matters’, that seemingly everyone had now formed an opinion on them. It was an introduction that took the online world by storm, and yet behind all the excitement and narrative was a fantastically confident indie-rock song by a band doing it the old-fashioned way, out on the road. Prelude to Ecstasy is both the closing of that introductory chapter and the opening of the next. The Last Dinner Party? Believe the hype.

The Last Dinner Party - Prelude to EcstasyKula Shaker - Natural MagickJ Mascis - What Do We Do NowUFO - Lights OutThe Who - QuadropheniaRobert Forster - Warm Nights

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