Originally published on The Line of Best Fit
It’s somewhat fashionable nowadays to see 90′s bands reminiscing about their heyday and playing their old albums to settled thirty something’s who’ve been granted a night away from Relocation Relocation on More4. The waists are wider and the fringe isn’t as floppy, but as long as the Manics have an album out, it will always be the days of Phoenix Festival and Mark and Lard on the graveyard shift in their hearts.
While Pulp take on Hyde Park and Suede become Brixton residents, our attention is brought to a little midland who have been beavering away for 20 years, to criminal under appreciation. Throughout the 90’s Cornershop flew in the face of the burgeoning Britpop trends: A ramshackle indie noise-pop band fronted by an Asian, Sitars over guitars and not sounding like George Harrison, and more than happy to hang out in America with Beck at Lollapalooza. They were the ultimate in cool, obscure indie bands, John Peel loved them they were signed to Wiiija Records. Then there was you-know-what, the indie disco anthem which still reverberates. It may seem like Cornershop got swept away off the floor of the Big Beat Boutique, but the truth is they’ve never been away.
You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise though, after a spurt of activity which resulted in six albums over nine years, Cornershop fell silent for seven years, not releasing an album until 2009′s Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast. During this time though, Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres, Cornershop’s constant core, were concocting a new Cornershop sound, one which takes their ever-present Indian styling to a natural conclusion. We were presented with a taster in 2004: The wonderful ‘Top Notch’ and ‘Natch’ saw Tjinder hand over vocals to an unknown Bubbley Kaur and focus on laid back beats and gentle groove, a stark antidote to the Rolling Stones romp of previous single ‘Lessons learnt from Rocky I to Rocky III.’
This double A side was the start of a seven year project which has resulted in Cornershop and the Double ‘O’ Groove of – a record which sets Cornershop less as a band, and deeper into the realms of producers. Using ‘Top Notch’ and ‘Natch’ as blueprints, the album opens with ‘United Provinces of India’ which greets the Punjabi Folk influence head on with looped sitars over a jittering breakbeat and Bubbley’s Punjabi vocals. It’s a wonderful culture clash, musically more western sounding than some of Cornershop’s previous material, but nested firmly in India. ‘Top Notch’ and ‘Natch’ are on the album, but as an accompaniment, not over powering, and inclusion honours the journey ..Double ‘O’ Groove Of has been on opposed to padding out the album. Indeed each album track is an equal to ‘Top Notch.’
There’s a huge range of influences evident. ‘The 911 Curry’ sounds like a 1970’s cop show trailer, complete with a Shaft breakdown and sampled funk horns jumping out at you. ‘Once There was a Wintertime’ cites Beck’s ‘Loser’ with beautifully sincere vocals replacing Bozo Nightmares, and samples of tea dance gramophone 78’s instead of a slide guitar. I have to be honest and admit it; I haven’t the faintest idea what Bubbley’s singing about, but the vocals are used like an extra instrument, tuned to a unique sincerity. This album is the first time Bubbley Kaur has sang outside of her family so her voice has an honest simplicity which transcends genres and language. The purposeful use of the voice is particularly evident on ‘Double Decker Eyelashes’, the slowest tempo song on the album. Nursery rhyme like couplets are used along with a basic beat to frame an array of curiosity shop samples, from space age bleeps to jangly bells with intrusions from a baroque harpsichord, all perfectly placed.
One element of Cornershop has been their light heartedness, exemplified through the cheeky and exuberant song titles such as ‘Who Fingered Rock n Roll’, ‘Wogs Will Walk’ and ‘Slip The Drummer One’, on …Double ’O’ Groove Of the quirkiness goes full throttle with ‘The Biro Pen’. It’s a good ole 80’s Cockney knees up as if Chas n Dave and Minder were cruising around Limehouse in a Ford Granada. It’s chips and curry sauce down the dog track, rather than an Islington gastro pub’s potato skins with homemade mayo. It’s a stand out track, but the one Bubbley’s vocals seem least comfortable with.
It’s taken a long time to produce but Cornershop and Bubbley Kaur have created a wonderful record, one which is daring, original and very modern. The mixture of vocals and production are perfect for sound tracking summer garden parties, and show Ben and Tjinder as producers of the highest calibre. I fear it may not gain the commercial appreciation it deserves, but for lovers of the exciting and the unique then this album is essential.