Cornershop – When I Was Born for the 7th Time

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

For reasons I have not plumbed, I very much enjoy it when siblings are in bands. It is not only heartwarmingly suggestive of lifelong camaraderie, it also speaks to a certain inevitability – as if not just making music but making this exact kind of music, together, was genetically ordained. So I was deeply disappointed to learn that Avtar Singh left Cornershop, splitting with his brother Tjinder, before this album was recorded.

What I Think of This Album

The song “Funky Days Are Back Again” perfectly describes this playful, gratifying, possibly monumental album. Unfortunately – and I hate to say this about an album I really like – it is full of nonsense that detracts from the overall experience. There are instrumental passages (both short and long) sprinkled throughout that, while technical achievements, lack the cultural resonance and musical immediacy of the other songs.

Airy and uplifting “Sleep On the Left Side” has an easy groove and a complex arrangement, including an inviting harmonium intro and a hypnotic flute (keyboard) part. Tribute “Brimful of Asha” (a paean to Indian playback singer Asha Bhosle, reported to have recorded more songs – over 12,000 – than anyone else) is a stunning creation, with rock instruments, Indian instruments, strings, and synthesized and electronica sounds coming together in a perfect fashion (the drum break is also wonderful). Norman Cook (the Housemartins) had a hit with a truly excellent remix of this song.

All momentum is lost with the two instrumentals that follow (though “Chocolat” is not bad). This pattern of fitful progress never abates. “We’re In Yr Corner” leans more heavily on the traditional Indian instrumentation, marrying it to a funky groove. “Funky Days” is another achievement, its laid-back message belying the intricate web of sounds that Singh and his bandmates intertwine, finding a comfortable spot where Indian music, indie, funk, hip hop, and electronica nestle against each other.

A rough patch follows, including an execrable collaboration with Allen Ginsberg, last heard ruining the Clash’s Combat Rock. The boastful “Good Shit” rides a breakbeat (and Spanish vocals!) on the way to a synthesizer and sitar section that brings the song to a too-soon end; a bastardized version was used in a Target commercial. “Good to Be On the Road Back Home” is a country number, with vocals from Paula Frazer, that I could easily imagine David Berman covering.

“It’s Indian Tobacco My Friend” is one of the instrumentals that works, with vocal samples, a mechanized beat, traditional drums, and synthesizer flourishes. “Candyman” was itself in a commercial (Nike) and is heavy on the hip hop/Indian mix. Justin Warfield (She Wants Revenge) handles the rap, and if I’m being honest, his voice reminds me of the Stereo M.C.’s “Connected.” “State Troopers (Part 1)” is a bit of old-school funk with new school sonics that I can do without. Finally, Cornershop proudly reclaims “Norwegian Wood,” with the added benefit that we don’t have to listen to its misogynistic English lyrics.

Dan the Automator was one of the producers.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Brimful of Asha” is infectious.

Release Date

September, 1997

The Cover Art

Another winner from Deborah Norcross, synthesizing her ‘70s aesthetic with a Roy Lichtenstein-like technique. I don’t love the website address. Once again, the U.K. art is completely different.

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