This is Comic Relief getting back to its roots – a familiar song, disrupted by the comic turn. I never watched the Kumars, and the clips I looked at for research don’t make me feel I missed too much – a take on the fake chat show subgenre, cosy enough to be long-running (i.e., it didn’t make idiots of its guests). This single mirrors the set-up – Gareth is the bemused outsider, Sanjeev the earnest wannabe, the rest of the family scuppering his plans and his “big sitar solo” in their bustling eagerness to get involved. And the cast get stuck in to the concept with professional gusto. Fun is being had, though perhaps not by you.

There’s an idea of sorts under all the japery, though. “Spirit In The Sky” isn’t just a familiar cross-generational knees-up, it sits next to “My Sweet Lord” as an artifact of the hippie trail era, gospel reframed for a post-Beatles world of more diffuse – and fashionable – spirituality. That world and its music drew in practise on a hodge-podge of lifts from Indian, Tibetan, Japanese and other traditions – there’s no sitar solo on the original “Spirit In The Sky” but there very easily could have been. So this single is an immigrant family mucking in with (and commenting on) a song born out of a Western fashion for Eastern mysticism.

It feels like a situation the Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar of the Goodness Gracious Me days might have worked a sketch out of. Here, it resolves into a bunch of weedy gags along the lines of “Got to have a friend in Jesus!”/“And Krishna!”. And if the record doesn’t make anything special of its guest stars, it can’t do much with its featured artist either. The set-up needs a slicker or more image-conscious pop star to work off – being youthfully out of his depth was all Gareth Gates did anyway. Still, “Spirit In The Sky” did its job, of being mildly entertaining, bought, and forgotten. By this point if you were expecting the Comic Relief single to be funny, the joke was very much on you.

Score: 3

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