Cornershop: Cornershop and the double ´O´groove of (2011)

Gestado durante seis años, Cornershop and the double ´O´groove of (2011) no es un disco de música Pop al uso. Bueno, segun los cánones de Tjinder Singh y Ben Ayres quizás sí. Digo ésto porque este trabajo es un disco algo difícil. De sobras es conocida la ascendencia hindú de Tjinder y su filia por la música de su país. Para la elaboración de este disco decidieron fijarse directamente en la música Punjabi, una suerte de Folk recitado en su India natal; y en la solista hindú Bubbley Kaur, una figura en estas lides en su país. El resultado: brillante, según se mire, por el multiculturalismo que destila al ser una feliz mezcla de diversos estilos (Pop, Punjabi, Hip-Hop, Dance...). O pesado, al estar todo el disco cantado en la lengua del Ganges y tomar un protagonismo excesivo la tonalidad y el ambiente hindú durante todo el álbum. Mejor que cada uno lo juzgue y saque sus propias conclusiones. Personalmente, me quedo con una solución intermedia, como un experimento Pop de un grupo inquieto que ha sabido moverse a sus anchas por los patrones más amplios que la música popular les ofrece. Posiblemente su próximo disco sea más parecido al genial Judy sucks a lemon for breakfast (2009). Quién sabe.

Cornershop – Cornershop and the double ´O´groove of (2011)

“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.
When I Was Born felt tailor-made for people to get excited over in 1997: As indie kids looked longingly to corners of the past for influences and styles (krautrock, exotica, jazz, Moog, soundtrack music), here were Cornershop, throwing them all together and mixing in Punjabi music and more approachable sounds like British pop, trip-hop, psych, and folk. Dan the Automator, about to hit his stride as a go-to sonic architect, co-produced their record; to up the zeitgeist factor even more, Fatboy Slim remixed their single “Brimful of Asha” into a UK no. 1 hit. Alongside Beck, Stererolab, Cornelius, and Björk, Cornershop were seen as part of a constellation of pan-global stars in love with the possibilities and freedom of blending pop with the textures and rhythms of hip-hop and dance. In 1997, they felt like the future. All the more ironic then that they became so firmly stranded in that moment.
When I Was Born still holds up, but the band abdicated its role, taking five years to follow it with 2002’s Handcream for a Generation and then a further seven before the more focused but under the radar 2009 release Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast. Never craven careerists, perhaps Ayres and Singh are enjoying a freedom from expectations; their creative juices seemingly uncorked, Cornershop have now issued a second consecutive laser-focused record, Cornershop and the Double-O Groove Of.
A collaboration with Punjabi singer Bubbley Kaur, Double-O finds Cornershop again ditching their more ramshackle qualities and settling confidently into a groove, exploring familiar sounds with a low-key confidence. The album betrays a whiff of 90s multiculturalism, trip-hop, and Britpop, oddly at a time when some of those sounds are returning to favor. It also feels nicely out of fashion, carried along by a collection of understated melodies and earworms. The almost casual charm and old-fashioned entertainment feel of the record is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson. Ayres and Singh were always versatile players, but their genre experiments tended to be underlined and bolded. Here, however, the two more delicately fold jazz, funk, and hip-hop into their central sonic idea, Punjabi giddha music.
Performed entirely in Punjabi, Kaur’s folksy vocals help coax listeners into what, for most, will sound totally unfamiliar. And that will be a problem for some. As will the fact that nothing about this scans as cool, or even contemporary. That’s something many people will find refreshing: On tracks such as “Topknot”– which dates back to 2004 and kicked off this fruitful partnership– and the lilting, harpsichord-led “Double Decker Eyelashes”, Kaur’s patient delivery and the songs’ unhurried paces are welcome and charming. The closer things hew to Singh’s gift for updating the feminine, lovely end of giddha and pop the better they proceed; diversions into funk and touches of trip-hop feel a little more stale.
This is a modest success at a time when artists aren’t always granted the room and time to craft modest successes. Cornershop were a cult band from the start– and an occasionally great one (check out “6 a.m. Jullandar Shere” for proof)– who became accidental stars, and returning to cult status the past few years has suited them. It would be nice if Double-O– the second-best record of their career– found an audience, but it’s destined to fly under the radar, be loved by a few people, and probably be discovered at another time. Many simply won’t have the patience for it: There’s a lot to like here but only a few tracks to love, and for every two songs that sound delightfully out of time, there’s one that just sounds out of time. Which is just as well, since the last time Cornershop felt current, it seemed to knock them off-center for more than a decade” (

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