Londoners’ soulful psychedelic excursion. Join them...
Of course, you’re no dummy. You already know what NME thinks of
Cornershop‘s first album since 1997. The verdict’s there at
the bottom of the page in brackets.
So, where did it go wrong for Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres?
How could they’ve improved ‘Handcream..’ enough to garner
the top mark that so much of this ray of home studio
sunshine deserves? Two marks (and yes, reviewing is
this scientific) are deducted for these individual
aberrations: firstly, we’re not buying ‘Music Plus 1’
or ‘London Radar”s excursions on their version of Daft
Punk, even though they’re better than Daft Punk. They
reek of filler. Secondly, ‘Spectral Mornings” 14 minutes of
sitar zoning seems a swizz. They recently performed a
24 hour mix of it on their website. Why skimp for posterity?
Otherwise, this is indeed magic handcream. Applied
at anytime and it lifts the soul with a joyful
infusion of psychedelic thinking and brilliant
rhythmic cross-genre filching. It is good-time
music with a message beyond just having a good
time – two musical responsibilities long abdicated
by British alternative groups. Within its hour
lifetime it keenly explores more musical avenues
and makes more telling social comment than any of
Cornershop‘s contemporaries have managed in the
four years since ‘When I Was Born For The 7th Time’,
the pair’s last outing.
It is delivered, too, with the care and loving
attention to detail of true, obsessive fans of
everything they translate. Thus, the terrific
opening soul stew funk of ‘Heavy Soup’ bounds into
view enthusiastically fronted by veteran soul crooner
Otis Clay; ‘Motion The 11’ is the heartiest, tastiest
70s reggae DJ slop served since reggae went digital;
and ‘Spectral Mornings’ (Noel G’s on guitar) and
‘Sounds Super Recordings’ are expertly constructed
from twin signals last beamed out from hip London
and happening Bombay circa 1969.
Yet there’s a warmth and diversity of styles on
‘Handcream…’ that prevents it ever seeming like
a museum piece, even more so when accompanied by
Tjinder’s wry, singular vocal commentaries. He
rallies against cheesy rock stars on the electric
boogie of ‘Lessons Learned From Rocky I to Rocky III’
(Guigsy’s on bass!), implores people to use the stage
meaningfully on the sublime summertime rock ‘Staging
The Plaguing Of the Raised Platform’, connects the
dancefloor to revolutionary action on ‘People Power’,
and infuses the lo-fi hip hop of ‘Wogs Will Walk’
with a look to the future via his past.
‘Handcream…’ doesn’t try to bludgeon you with
a message. It tickles you with it. This is
happy music for hard times, a ray of warm and
righteous sunshine just when it was needed most.