Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 31)
Quick! Name five rock bands with Indian lead singers! Three? Two? Yes, its no secret that indie rock tends to skew almost exclusively white and male. A white male wants to listen to anther white male sing and they’re the ones with money. Or when other races do find themselves in front of the microphone they have to fight against stereotyping for the entirety of their career. But really, it’s just a damn shame we don’t get to hear more regional influences creep into our “guitar+tenor” indie rock. So here’s Cornershop. Not only is lead singer Tjinder Singh Indian, he embraces his cultura and lets that love bleed through his alternative rock output.
I call When I Was Born for the 7th Time
alternative rock because that’s the exact kind of catch all buzzword this album needs. Its straight forwards pop here, its instrumental hip hop there, its sitar/drone over here, its country over there. It’s an album that refuses to sit down and be good. I have no doubt Singh could have cranked out 15 wonderful pop rock tunes but he asks the listener to follow him down some wild rabbit holes and it’s a rewarding challenge to try and keep up.
For you nervous children, listen to opening duo “Sleep on the Left Side” and “Brimful of Asha”. Both are instantly loveable and effortlessly melodic. Of course, those two songs are about as far as a lot of music fans ever got with this album before chucking it to their local used CD store. Straight into the third song and expectations are thrown out the window with “Butter the Soul”, a 3 minute instrumental with a constantly see sawing tempo, followed by the also instrumental “Chocolat”. By the time the vocals come back, Singh is singing in Punjabi on “We’re in Your Corner”.
Cornershop is like a less eager to please Beck and that guy was pretty lackadaisical as is. When I Was Born for the 7th Time
is as easy going as albums get, it sounds like the product of a couple fun days in a recording studio, but it buries its highlights while revealing its pleasures over time. The relaxed smile of tunes like “Funky Days are Back Again” and “God ***” mingles with the country duet “Good to Be On the Road Back Home Again”, a forming a peaceful coalescent that could give a *** about race.
“Brimful of Asha” ended up being Cornershop’s massive breakthrough single, though not quite in the way they planned. When the song was initially released it peaked at number 60 on the UK charts. When DJ Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim remixed it, the song went to number one and became a worldwide hit. When I say the remix of the song trounces the original this isn’t a comment on the original’s poor quality, it’s a comment on how damn good the remix is. But while this would be the extent of Cornershop’s reach into the mainstream, it was only the beginning of Fatboy Slim’s.