Punjabi Pop

Cornershop - When I Was Born For The Seventh Time
(Luaka Bop Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

Since the sixties rock musicians have explored the exotic sounds of East India and incorporated it into their music. The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, and more recently Kula Shaker have all added elements of India's mysterious music to their own, if only by introducing the unique sound of the sitar or the rubbery beats of the tabla. Rarely, however, has an East Indian artist succeeded (at least in the States) in creating a viable form of rock music. Until now.
The London-based band Cornershop, lead by Anglo-Asian singer-songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Tjinder Singh, have released their third album entitled When I Was Born For The Seventh Time which turns out to be a surprising, unique collection of quirky, inventive (yet almost unclassifiable) songs.
Mixing the sounds of India's past with hip-hop grooves, seventies funk, dub samplings and English pop know-how, Cornershop is as puzzling as they are pleasing. Opening up with a whirling zydeco accordion the band slinks into a lazy hip-hop beat behind a catchy pop melody on "Sleep On The Left Side". Instrumentals such as the slow, fat funk on "Chocolat" and the hallucinogenic haziness of "It's Indian Tobacco My Friend" make for pleasant bedfellows next to the highly infectious pop of "Brimful Of Asha" and the insane ramblings on "What Is Happening?", a socio-political song based around turkey gravy and the cost of a can of sweet potatoes. "Butter The Soul", sounds like a cheesy sixties soundtrack, spiced with Indian laced sitar interludes, with some kid fiddling with the power plug as they were recording it. It shouldn't work, but somehow strangely does.
Similar to fellow rock contemporary Beck, who Cornershop supported as opening act on his European tour last year, Singh dumps in a good measure of low-tech sounds such as the muffled, distorted vocals on the groove-happy "Candyman" (which also features guest rapper Justin Warfield) and slipped-disc synthesizer sliding on a greasy beat and seventies wah-wah guitar on "State Troopers (Part I)". The late beat-poet Allen Ginsberg also adds a dead-pan reading over a canned tribal African beat before the song breaks into a loud Pakistani street parade on "When The Light Appears Boy".
Punjabi pop, Indian alternative, multi-racial rock, call it what you want, these guys are, to paraphrase Beck, 'where it's at'.

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