When I was Born for the 7th Time
British band Cornershop has reincarnated themselves with their third album, When I was Born for the 7th Time. Well, not exactly, but they are making a big splash stateside after a few years of success in Britain with a series of quirky singles climbing up all the charts.
Front-man Tjinder Singh claims that Cornershop has, "Something for everyone: from country to brunch with hip-hop, cricket on the lawn with Punjabi folk music, and a square-dance before dinner with the most righteous beats." That about sums up their eclectic stuff just right. When I was Born for the 7th Time boasts an unusual assortment of influences from hip-hop, funk, soul, and rap on one side, to sitar-driven Punjabi (read: Indian) pop on the other, with a brief visit to other Western styles like country along their sonicly-enlightened path. The Cornershop sound is built by bridging the distant gap between a host of Indian instruments like the dholki, tamboura, and sitar with such modern staples as jangly-retro guitars, looped drum tracks, exotic noises, and the odd bit of rap-style scratching. The result is a sample-laden, percussion-focused effort with as many experimental-sounding instrumental tracks as there are radio-ready pop ditties. At times the bass is simply speaker-busting -- a result of their very high production values. If this all sounds like a hodgepodge of unusual bedfellows, you're right. But it works. The result mixes styles in an Anglo-Indian multi-cultural mishmash that can best be described as music meant to make happening parties. You'll have fun. Sing-along. Smile. And shake your thing.
Regrettably, Cornershop offers very little in the way of spiritual or moral value. Beyond a wee bit of political posturing, they don't appear to be concerned with much more than having a good time while making some bizarre music. A lot of the lyrics are nonsensical or in Punjab, so it's difficult at best to understand their content. A lyric sheet is not provided, so obviously their English pop songs are a bit more accessible. In "A Brimful of Asha," their hum-able homage to Indian movie songstress Asha Bhosle and hugely successful radio-single, Tjinder focuses his affection when he sings:
She's the one that keeps the dream alive
it.) Later, in "Funky Days are Back Again:"
Funky, funky days, they're back again
and we are in vogue again...
We'll be armed in dungaree cords again.
Happy days are here again, my friend.
Been a long journey, long long times
Many roads we couldn't climb
But once again the name of the game is funky
And it's funky again.
Seems like the funky days are back again.
Funky with a Y and it's back again. And back again.
We'll be wearing dungaree cords again
Walking down that road with a smile on our faces.
We'll be walking naked hand in hand down that road...
When we say party we mean it...
Due to the heavy emphasis on the electronic components of their music as well as the number of instrumentals, these songs appear to be more studio-focused efforts than fodder for live shows. There are only a few songs to support a tour here, but presumably the band draws from their previous two albums as well as the corny cover or two for their concert experience. They are currently on tour through June; information about upcoming shows can be accessed at their website. (Speaking of corny covers, their take on The Beatles's "Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)" conjures a Japanese karaoke party at its finest moment.)
Critics everywhere are raving about Cornershop; one claims they've essentially redefined contemporary alt-pop. This claim is well-founded. Yet, they could've pushed themselves a bit further and offered more than a brimful of cheerful party tunes. Nevertheless, Cornershop has created an innovative, boundary-pushing release that certainly makes you wish there were more Christians as creative and truly "alternative" as this band.