The racially diverse and stylistically eclectic band, Cornershop, has over the years honed a finely tuned amalgamation of Indian and British alternative pop/rock/ dance music. The group formed in 1992, but it was their third effort that gained U.S. recognition and radio airplay. The band’s third album, When I Was Born For The 7th Time, a salute to 70’s kich meets trip-hop, released in 1997, is arguably their best music venture and has garnered critical acclaim.
The 15 track record includes the band’s most famous single, Brimful of Asha – a catchy, string-heavy tune. The simple lyrics are reminiscent of early rock, when songs were about girls, music, and dancing. The handclapping and repeated chorus hook give Brimful of Asha a comfortable just hangin’ out on your friend’s living room floor feel.
The album opens with Sleep on the Left Side, a modern lullaby of sorts. It’s steady, monotonous drum beats, intermittent talking and mellow lyrics, lull listeners.
The album then picks up the pace with the happy-go-lucky hit Brimful of Asha, a song that doesn’t lose its appeal after several plays.
Following this, is the just over three minute instrumental song Butter the Soul. This song shows off the band’s talent with record scratching. Dragging, lazy scratching is spiced up with breaks of traditional Indian sitar instrumentals.
Chocolat, another instrumental, vastly shorter, follows with creepy sounding keyboards. Chocolat sounds like what you would hear if a song from a porn flick were playing in a scary movie.
Track 5, We’re in YR Corner is a traditional Indian dance tune, spoken in Indian. This song is heavily produced using about every instrument in the studio.
Funky Days Are Back Again makes interesting use of marching band style drum rolls. As with many of the tunes on this album there is an odd combination of up tempo dance instrumentals along with lyrics so mellow they’re almost dispassionate.
The next track, What is Happening,? is full of crazy random statements like “Mac and gravy,” weird synthesized sound effects, and the ever-present drum.
One of my favorite songs on the album is track 8, When the Light Appears Boy. A man reads a poem-When the Light Appears Boy, as tribal drums beat in the background. When the poem ends the drums speed up like a furious African tribal dance ritual.
Coming Up is another instrumental with their standard mix of scratching, synthesized sounds, and traditional elements. The next song, Good S*** is fluidly blended in to the end of this one, sounding more like a tempo change than a new track. Good S*** is pretty forgettable.
Good to Be On the Road Back Home offers an interesting country/folk feel at a slow/moderate tempo with the odd addition of distortion. This song leaves an overall impression. No one element stands out more than the others, and if it did, it certainly wouldn’t be the lyrics, though Paula Frazer’s guest vocals are pleasing.
Track 12, It’s Indian Tobacco My Friend would probably be best suited as background music to fall asleep or meditate to. It is very slow and boring.
Candyman, which uses samplings from “The Opening” by Larry Coryell can be most praised for it’s drum and bass guitar parts.
State Troopers (Part 1), an instrumental, is mildly interesting but really just another put you to sleep song. After you’ve heard the first few bars, there’s nothing new to keep your attention.
The final song on the album is another one of my top picks. They did the Beatles proud with their Indian spoken rendition of Norwegian Wood. The Indian instruments actually sound very appropriate in the song and they were smart to not make any drastic changes to the classic hit.
The whole album is a winner first off for what Cornershop attempts to accomplish with the blending of so many styles, but even more so, for the three or four tracks in which they successfully pull it together. The top tracks are Brimful of Asha, When the Light Appears Boy, Good to Be On the Road Back Home, and Norwegian Wood. Even though some of the other songs are not as strong, you’ll find yourself playing the whole album through because even the somewhat monotonous tunes are relaxing and upbeat.
Recent albums by Cornershop:
Wop the Groove-2006