Release Date: Apr 20, 2010
Record label: Ample Play
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Sure, the late-1990s version of global alt-pop is weak compared to the current peer-to-peer-fueled, M.I.A.- and Vampire Weekend-populated stuff. But tell that to my carbound Case Logic between 1996 and 1998, which at the time felt like its own Model UN meeting. Cibo Matto, Cornelius, and Buffalo Daughter fueled my fascination with Tokyo's short-lived Shibuya-kei scene.
It seems strange to think that to 99 per cent of the British record buying public, Cornershop will always be seen as this bizarrely quirky one hit wonder whose only claim to fame was an unlikely number one single - a tribute to Indian seven inch singles - some 12 years ago. Of course the Cornershop story began many years prior to that, their initial shows as a four-piece usually ending up in spontaneous combustion or audience walk-outs, largely due to prolonged bouts of musical incompetence. Yet beneath all the posturing and amateur musicianship there was always something quite striking about Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres' compositions, whether it be the Morrissey-baiting polemic of 'England's Dreaming', satirical patter in 'Born Disco Died Heavy Metal' or just plain audacity of arguably their musical high-point to date, '6am Jullander Shere'.
Given Cornershop's extended seven-year layoff, it's not unreasonable to expect Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast -- the group's first album since 2002's Handcream for a Generation -- to be somewhat of a reinvention for a group that specialized in ever-shifting change in the '90s. As it turns out, Judy finds Cornershop riding a very, very comfortable groove, replicating the sound of feel of the bright, boogying Handcream while stripping away any of its intensity. That means that this is the friendliest batch of neo-glam to come down the pike in quite some time, never catching fire but never really striking a match, either, and it's the least adventurous dose of eclecticism, too, with nary a sitar, Mellotron, or sample out of place.
It’s seven years since the last installment of the Cornershop saga arrived in the form of the brilliantly-named Handcream for a Generation. Almost a generation on, Tjinder Singh and co may be child-rearing thirty-somethings but they’re still bedroom-mirror romantics with one foot stuck firmly in the days of the Ford Cortina. If anything, the nostalgia dial has been turned up: Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast is an album that often seems to be playing on a dansette in a glitterball-lit corner of Hanif Kureishi’s frontal lobe.
It’s a mystery how and why Cornershop squandered its cultural capital, critical acclaim, and commercial relevance after 1997’s groundbreaking When I Was Born for the 7th Time, which was tapped by more than one publication as the best-of-the-year, ahead of even Radiohead’s OK Computer. Not only did that album create a dynamic, worldly sound that didn’t simply give in to exotic novelty, but it also augured even bigger things for the future of multi-cultural pop. No one expected it would take the likes of M.I.A.
Those marvelling this week at the Horrors' journey from music press joke to Mercury prize nominees have a point: six months ago, it would have seemed hilarious and terrifying, like giving the Richard Dimbleby Award for Outstanding Personal Contribution to Factual Television to Vernon Kaye for All Star Family Fortunes. But the Horrors' career curve comes with a kind of precedent, in the shape of Cornershop. They began life as a sort of race-relations wing of the riot grrrl movement, publicly burning posters of Morrissey and releasing records on curry-coloured vinyl.
Get frugging - the first LP for nigh on a decade from Tjinder Singh and co feels like rummaging through rock's dressing-up box on a wet afternoon..