Release Date: 04.23.02
Record label: Wiiija / Beggars
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Keeping the Dope Dope and The Dope Dope
by: bill aicher
There's a tendency among music reviewers to refer to an album with danceable beats and a carefree style as a "party album." I've never been quite sure what to make of these claims; they seem to call an album's artistic merit into question. Do they really have any substance to them? Or are they just a mindless collection of so-called "fun" songs?
Handcream for a Generation is an album begging to be called a "party album" - maybe even the "party album of the year" (whatever that means). The thing is, it isn't a party album. Instead it's a soundtrack to a party. Or maybe a soundtrack to a show - or something. Regardless, it's an unbelievably fun romp through British rock with influences from just about every genre you can think of.
On the previous Cornershop work to date it was pretty easy to know what to expect: a highly engaging helping of rock with a heavy dose of Indian influence (ahem... sitar) all given the artsy once-over by leadman Tjinder Singh. They'd pretty much always been "a band to watch for" but it wasn't until When I Was Born for the Seventh Time that the group received its first true accolades. Now, five years and a breakup / make-up later, they've all but abandoned the Indian influence and have put together an extremely solid (if somewhat unexpected) album.
Handcream starts with not so much a song, but an introduction to the album by none other than soul legend Otis Clay. It's as long as a song, and it's got the structure of a song, but it's really a song about the rest of the songs. Confused yet? Don't be - amazingly this intro alone has enough soul and flair to put half the "party albums" to shame.
Where the "music" actually picks up is on track two: "Staging the Plaguing of the Raised Platform." Now, I have no idea what the hell that means, and I really don't care. All I know is it's a weird take on 60's bubblegum rock with choruses of kids singing about "making the dope dope and the dope dope." And keeping the dope dope is just what's going on from here on out.
"Music Plus 1," a house track that'd nearly put Fatboy Slim to shame follows (and returns later, rasta-style, as "Motion the 11"). The album's most straightforward rocker and first single, "Lessons Learned from Rocky I to Rocky III" continues the flow, featuring bass work by none other than original Oasis bassist, Paul McGuigan. And speaking of Oasis, leave it to Cornershop to employ the guitar work of Noel Gallagher on the 14+ minute Indian-tinged instrumental rock extravaganza "Spectral Mornings." (A bit of useless trivia: Cornershop released a record-breaking 24-hour long mix of this track on their site Februrary 12, 2002).
And what British "party" disc would be complete without a disco-rock spy freakout? Switch to track 9, "The London Radar" and your'e there. It's messed up, but it's so tasty you'll need to mop your drool from the floor before it's even halfway through. It's the track Propellerheads have been trying to make their entire career.
There's more to the disc, and I could go on forever about the walking wogs and people power, but in the end it's just words. Handcream is an album far beyond words, it's something you just have to experience. But be forewarned: if you can't handle an experience that will set your head spinning and your booty shaking, steer clear. After all, that's what this disc is really all about. Sure it's intelligent, but in a discofunk-bubblegum-rasta-house sort of way... if you get my drift.
10-Sep-2002 10:49 PM