Review: Cornershop – Urban Turban
Published on April 27th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Given that six of the tracks on Urban Turban featured in Cornershop’s recent Singhles Club offer, of which Rocksucker was a faithfully paid-up member, we are in the unusual position of having already reviewed half of this album before. We also laid bare our love of Cornershop in no uncertain terms when we had the honour of interviewing Tjinder Singh last June, so any which way we’re pretty stoked to be welcoming their third album in four years after the seven-year hiatus that followed 2002’s summer party soundtrack par excellence Handcream for a Generation.
So here’s how we’re going to play this; have yourselves a read of this, and then let’s focus on the tracks we hadn’t heard before. The first of these is “Milkin’ It”, the popping digi-funk of which plays host to the entertainingly scattered musings of In Light of Aquarius, whose effortlessly cool vocal interpretations of scratching (“‘jiggy jiggy fliggy’ is all I hear”) makes up for the done-to-death device of bemoaning the state of modern hip-hop before reeling off a list of the greats.
He’s got a great voice though, and the manner in which it’s been chopped up and regurgitated back as samples places less importance on the lyrical theme than if it had been laid down as a continuous flow. In short, that which required ‘fixing’ has been done so consummately. Of course, there’s always the chance that we’ve completely misconstrued what went on here, in which case we apologise.
“Something Makes You Feel Like” features Bordeaux chanteuse SoKo, whose sunny, laid-back and endlessly listenable drawl (could describe Tjinder’s voice, that) we had been hitherto unaware of before hearing this absolute gem of a tune. A simple, vaguely “Brimful of Asha”-evoking progression of lightly fuzzy guitar chords provides SoKo the stage for her amiable eccentricity to resoundingly shine, even with lines as naive as “For your tummy, for your head / When you can’t sleep, you’re depressed / You feel weak / Do you bleed? / No, so stop your whining”; we couldn’t tell you how serious a take on the subject of depression that actually is, but she gets the benefit of our doubt for sounding a bit like a female Stephen Malkmus.
“Prozac is not your friend, he doesn’t make you a better man / It’s not gonna save you from the end / God decided we’re gonna die anyway”; rarely has such bleakness been made to sound so gosh darn happy-go-lucky, and by the time she’s singing “You’re way too young to be depressed / And way too nice to be stressed / Frowning doesn’t suit you / So put a smile on your face” as if she was a child trying to cheer you up, you just want to ruffle her hair and smile uneasily at the notion that this kid somehow knows way too much. Still, amidst this mess of conflicting reactions lies a solid gold pop song, and quite possibly Urban Turban‘s stand-out track.
Moving on, the superbly titled “Inspector Bamba Singh’s Lament” showcases the perpetually dancing vocal talents of Amar, whose gusto may not sit well with those attuned to the more honeyed tones of Bubbley Kaur on last year’s superb Cornershop and the Double ‘O’ Groove Of LP, but it lands really quite effectively in various spots across the cheerfully funky backing track and reinforces Cornershop’s long-held knack for contrast.
The warbling of one Lorraine on “Dedicated” may be hard to reconcile with the Cornershop that we know and love, belonging as it probably does on something more chart-orientated, but she’s certainly got a set of pipes on her and brings yet another dimension to an album not exactly shy of them. Splendorously sunny synth chords seize and then relinquish control of the track, and in the end it’s all gravy.
After another, slightly longer helping of “What Did the Hippie Have in His Bag?”, bonus track “First Wog on the Moon” draws things to a close with wibbly, stuttery, filtered synths that feel as if they’re attempting to initiate some kind of sophisticated melodic shift but keep falling over some imaginary first hurdle. Think an eccentric electro cousin of “Butter the Soul” from Cornershop’s still-imperious 1997 breakthrough album When I Was Born for the 7th Time.
Overall, Urban Turban is a fine addition to the Cornershop catalogue and introduces us to some exciting talents along the way, but this latter virtue is also part of its overarching problem; namely that only one of the tracks (two if you count the fact that it’s reprised) features a Tjinder Singh lead vocal. His willingness to take a back seat is admirable, but ultimately it denies us enjoyment of one of the most compelling voices going for a second successive album. This deviation made a thrilling rebranding out of Double ‘O’ Groove, but its all-too-brief presence here serves to underline what a shame this is. We can only hope that Singh’s self-imposed vocal exile is not permanent, and that it will be back in its full glory on yet another Cornershop album sooner rather than later.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Urban Turban will be released on 14th May through Cornershop’s own Ample Play label. You can pre-order your copy from store.cornershop.com. For more information, please visit cornershop.com or the Cornershop Facebook page.