It’s been five years since Cornershop caught the music world completely off guard with When I Was Born for the 7th Time. Previously written off as lo-fi indie noiseniks, When I Was Born… threw folk, electronica and hip-hop into the mix, and produced an album that swiftly became both a critical and commercial smash. On the back of this came single success as big-beat jester Fatboy Slim‘s remix of Brimful of Asha forced it’s way to the top of the charts. And then silence.
Well, not quite. Under the guise of Clinton, they tried their hand at the little-known genre of bedsit disco, and Tjinder Singh, Cornershop’s singer and songwriter, started up the Meccico label. But five years can be an unforgivably long time between albums – just ask The Stone Roses. In 2002, is there still a place for Cornershop amongst the current crop of Pop Idols?
Whilst being no great departure from the eclectic stew of When I Was Born…, Handcream for a Generation takes the blueprint laid down there and expands on it. From the loose-limbed funk of opener Heavy Soup to the lo-fi glitter stomp of Music Plus One, via roots reggae, the more traditional indie jangler, and turntable and sample heavy numbers, this is a truly eclectic album.
This scattershot approach to music can, in the wrong hands, lead to a disjointed experience, but somehow, whether playing disco or rock, the result still sounds like Cornershop – an achievement given the nature of the album. On the more traditional numbers, such as Staging the Plaguing of the Raised Platform and recent single Lessons Learned from Rocky I to Rocky III, Singh shows he’s lost none of the incisive wit that has characterized Cornershop’s career over the years.
Perhaps of more note are the numbers created with the dance floor in mind. The rough DIY house of Music Plus One, with it’s single finger piano melody worthy of a hands-in-the-air rave classic, and the resurrected People Power (seen in a previous incarnation on Clinton’s Disco and the Halfway to Discontent) with it’s “People Power in the Disco Hour” refrain, whilst unlikely to be troubling the record boxes of the likes of Judge Jules or Pete Tong, should find their way into the bags of more open-minded jocks.
Sure to garner the most interest though is the epic, (literally, clocking in at over 14 minutes) Spectral Mornings. A sitar and percussion-fuelled psychedelic opus, notable for featuring Noel Gallagher yet not being an overblown pompous waste of space, some achievement in itself these days, it’s the crowning moment of an album sure to follow its predecessor into the end of year charts of journalists and the collections of the public.
Whilst not as much of a surprise as When I Was Born…, this album is a more accomplished work. It manages to sound fresh and vital, unforced in it’s eclecticism and is a much needed tonic in these days of pop by committee and jury.