Release Date: Mar 15, 2011
Record label: Ample Play
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
In 2004 Cornershop dropped “Topknot,” a chill Indian funk jam with unknown vocalist Bubbley Kaur (and a little-known M.I.A. on the remix). For the fusionistas behind “Brimful of Asha,” the 1997 co-tribute to Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle and the Velvet Underground, it was an ideal match. Now, frontman Tjinder Singh lets Kaur sing a whole LP—in Punjabi—and her girlish voice shines over digitally-quilted, culture-mashing beats.
What better way to count down into a review of Cornershop’s long awaited collaborative album with Punjabi songbird Bubbley Kaur than using the title of a 1968 duet sung by Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor—“One, Two, Three, Baby”. It was Fatboy Slim’s remix of Tjinder Singh’s tribute to the famous Bollywood singer, “Brimful of Asha”, which garnered this Midlands group worldwide exposure back in 1998 and gave them a bona fide number one hit in the British charts. But like everything Cornershop does, even that seemingly simple dance tune with its catchy lyric “Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow” was more than the sum of its substantial parts.
There seems to be a weird post-millennial divide between 1990s bands who are still part of the conversations and those who aren't: Napster almost certainly drew the line, and artists such as Tricky, Moby, Mercury Rev, and Primal Scream paid a price by peaking in the 90s and plodding along into the 00s with mostly diminished returns. Of all of the artists who fit that bill, few slipped as far from the spotlight as Cornershop. While most of their alt-rock crossover peers stuck around for greatest hits and festival appearances, the British duo of Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres quickly receded, spending the capital earned by their universally lauded 1997 album, When I Was Born for the 7th Time, on a political side project, Clinton, while also taking lengthy breaks between records.
Broadly speaking, those that are aware of Cornershop fall into two groups. Group one bopped along to the remixed ‘Brimful Of Asha’, but have been unaware of subsequent, less omnipresent releases. This has helped consign the band to the one-hit wonder bin of their minds. They see them there, scrabbling around with the Babylon Zoos and the Soniques on a motorway service station just outside the M25.
Following up Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast in exceedingly timely fashion -- a mere two years compared to the seven that separated that 2009 effort from 2002’s Handcream for a Generation -- Cornershop capitalize on their Indian tradition, bringing in Bubbley Kaur for a collection of pop with a Punjabi punch. The vocals and flourishes are strongly Punjabi -- songs are often sung in the language, not English as they usually are on a Cornershop LP -- but these are essentially trappings for a collection of multicultural dance-pop not too dissimilar from the group’s albums since 1997. As on Judy Sucks, this is a blessing and a curse: Cornershop’s blends are still rich and flavorful yet they have the whiff of old fashion, still tied heavily to the post-rave years of trip-hop and Brit-pop, trends they fought and embraced in equal measure.
A zingy fusion of disparate styles. Matthew Horton 2011 If you believe a somewhat fanciful back-story, Cornershop mainman Tjinder Singh and the splendidly named Punjabi singer Bubbley Kaur, who features throughout here, met in a cellar in Preston while Kaur was working in a launderette. It's not quite Don't You Want Me, but from similarly humble origins Singh and Kaur have realised some sort of dream – a successful marriage of funk and Punjabi folk.