It has been, all things considered, a fractious time since Kagoule released their debut record, Urth. An album, released on Earache Records, that is doubly good and bad in the minds of the band. Of course, it allowed them to tour the world, share stages with everyone from Johnny Marr to The Wytches, but after leaving the label they had to regroup and think about the future of the band. That future lied with Alcopop! Records, who have released their long overdue sophomore effort, Strange Entertainment, which is less of a homage to the 90s grunge scene and more of an extended look at the world of post-punkish sounds. With sounds ranging from the gloom-rock of Joy Division to the stadium-ready sounds of Interpol, Strange Entertainment is onto a winning formula.
A band that were, as many are, wonderfully adopted by the flourishing Brighton rock scene that saw the likes of Demob Happy and The Wytches grow in to all-conquering bands, the time off for Kagoule has done the trio the world of good. Lead singer Cai Burns states that “We were all very young and I think we allowed ourselves to be mollycoddled a bit too much. It took a few years for us to realise we had to take control of it for ourselves.” As such, while Urth was very influence-heavy, Strange Entertainment feels a lot more authentic and wholly a project from the Nottingham three-piece.
Created by indie legends, it’s no surprise that Strange Entertainment sounds so brilliant. Produced by MJ from Hookworms and mixed by Tarek Musa from Spring King, it carries a much more elegant flow with a polished sheen that wasn’t there back in 2015. That’s not to say that Strange Entertainment doesn’t have its spikey moments, however. Second song and single, ‘Bad Saliva’ falls somewhere between the gypsy punk of Gogol Bordello and the modernist rock of Tigercub and Demob Happy, while ‘Too New Too Soon’s escalation into a frenzied noise is delightfully vociferous.
Elsewhere, bassist and vocalist Lucy Hatter’s first foray into vocal performance is on the wonderful ‘It’s Not My Day’, which features a gloriously chanty chorus of “It’s not my day, it’s not my day, is it?” While the combination of both Hatter and Burns’ vocals in ‘Magnified’ showcases the band at their very best. In fact, the dynamic trio have, impressively, managed to generate the feeling of their live show on the record. From ‘Superhuman’s fitful, uneven nature, to lead single ‘Monsieur Automaton’s uncontrolled and agitated opening 30 seconds, Strange Entertainment is all the thrills and spills of a sweaty and intimate Kagoule gig without even leaving the house.
“I wanted to write songs that stood up for themselves in the most simple of forms,” Burns expands on the creation of Strange Entertainment. “I think there’s something beautiful about restrictions in music, and I’ll always prefer a lo-fi attempt at a big idea”. Kagoule have, once again, created something quite special. This time, however, it feels a little more veritable and, importantly, it’s brimming with brilliant rock and roll riffs, and Burns’ magnificently idiosyncratic vocal performance once again. “Being in a band is full of those crazy moments,” Burns stated of making the record. Thankfully, Kagoule have bottled up that feeling and conjured it into Strange Entertainment.