I first heard Cornershop on John Peel’s late night Radio 1 show back in early 1993. Loud and unruly, I was smitten and went around with ‘Cornershop: In the Days of Ford Cortiona EP’ scrawled onto my school bag. According to legend, said debut EP was pressed on curry-coloured vinyl (I’ve got the 7″ in front of me and that’s definitely black plastic).
Truth or not, the band were uncompromising and defiant, in their politics and their music. They’d named themselves Cornershop as a comment on British people’s perceptions of the Asian community in the UK. My scrawling Cornershop on my school bag raised the usual “why?” questioning from my contemporaries at school (but I was a weirdo who didn’t play rugby and liked The Cure, so they didn’t really expect any better from the likes of me). But it was exciting to someone feeling isolated in a godforsaken market town in England’s East Midlands.
By the time I saw Cornershop live, four years down the line (bizarrely at the Christian-orientated Greenbelt festival, then held near Corby, where the bill also featured 3 Colours Red and Bennet… er ask your dad), they had expanded their sound, mixing the Indian folk and angry guitar pop with dance and hip-hop influences. Their second album Woman’s Gotta Have It was as much of a progression from their debut Hold On It Hurts as Blur and Radiohead would make between their debut and sophomore releases.
They bookended their brilliant set that afternoon in Northamptonshire with ‘6am’ and ‘7:20am Jullander Shere’ like on the album. Yet the next six months would prove even more extraordinary. Their third album When I Was Born For The Seventh Time would prove to be a massive hit. Not only did the song ‘Brimful Of Asha’ top John Peel’s Festive 50 at the end of the year, but the remix of the song by Fatboy Slim (allegedly done by Norman Cook for free after then-label Wiiija said they couldn’t afford to pay for a remix) helped take it to no.1 in early 1998.
While they have yet to make the top ten since, the single has seen a couple of other Cornershop songs also make the UK Top Forty and it’s meant that there has always been an interest in new material released by the group. Their second decade might have seen longer between releases from the group but they still generate a considerable amount of interest worldwide.
Thing is, no-one wants just to be remembered for a no.1 hit nearly fifteen years ago that came about as the result of someone else’s remix. The fact is: Cornershop show, yet again, on this their eighth album, show that there’s so much to be celebrated about them in the present time. They have continued to grow and evolve over time, and yet impressively for an album that has such a huge amount of influences, it very definitely sounds like Cornershop.
From the hip-hop inflections of the single ‘Milkin’ It’ to the gorgeous French-influenced ‘Non-stop Radio Play’ this is Cornershop firing on all cylinders. It has actually taken a long time to write this review not just because of my reflections on how much I have rated Cornershop, but because it’s just such a flaming great album to listen to. ‘Who’s Gonna Lite It Up’ mixes Beck, Indian influences and Hip-Hop. And it makes sense that there was also a disco side project that they put out as Clinton, because that’s still an interest here (’Solid Gold’).
I genuinely believe that there is not a duff track on this album. Yes, I’m a fan (in case that wasn’t already obvious enough). And listening to this album shows that nearly into their third decade as a group, Cornershop are still one of the most creative bands out there. Get them on your stereo now. This album deserves to be a hit; it’s up to you to make it the smash it deserves to be.