Monday, March 24, 2014

I'd Love to Turn You On #102 - Cornershop - When I Was Born For the Seventh Time

Cornershop are a band that have always seemed a little out of place, as much by design as anything else.  The brainchild of leader Tjinder Singh, Cornershop combined pop and rock, funk and hip-hop and a whole bunch of other sounds and styles with an undercurrent of traditional Indian music that occasionally makes its way to the top.  Seemingly as an answer to the massive Britpop scene, Singh sought to add his own ethnic heritage to the mix and came up with a sound that transcends any particular trend or time period.  After the independently released debut Hold On It Hurts and major label debut Woman's Got To Have It, Singh and company put it all together for third album When I Was Born For the Seventh Time and the result was one of the best albums of the late 90s.

"Sleep on the Left Side" opens the album with a laid back funky groove and poppy melody.  Things really pickup with the undeniably catchy "Brimful of Asha," an infectious pop song with sitar strumming courtesy of Ben Ayres, the only other constant in the band besides Singh.  A remix by Fatboy Slim got some attention a few years later but even that can't beat the charm and bounce of the original.  The album contains several instrumentals that provide short blasts of hip-hop inspired funk.  These aren't just filler though.  They help tie together the various strands of the album and the best, like "Candy Man" and "Butter the Soul," stand out on their own.  The album hits its peak with "We're in Yr Corner," as a hypnotic beat backs Ayres’ sitar and Singh sings in Punjabi.

The band scores a major coup in getting legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg to contribute a spoken word piece "When the Light Appears Boy."  It was one of the final recordings Ginsberg made before his death and works well with the worldly feel of the album.  Another infectious pop moment comes with "Good Shit" (retitled "Good Ship" for radio play).  The song features a great example of the clever word play Singh often employs, as well as being a great feel-good jam. Cornershop takes what may actually be its most surprising turn with the country flavored "Good to Be on the Road Back Home."  Singh duets with Paula Frazer and comes up with another great set of lyrics married to a catchy tune.  It doesn't seem at all out of place, fitting in nicely with the album's eclectic vibe.  The album concludes with a little wink, a faithful cover of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" sung in Punjabi.  It's a clever way to end an album that takes listeners on a journey through the sounds and interests of its creators.  Cornershop and Singh have been up and down in the years since When I Was Born For the Seventh Time, but the album remains one of the finest of its era.  It may not have been a big hit, but it certainly deserves to be discovered and appreciated.
            - Adam Reshotko

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