If you only remember Cornershop from their 1997 alt-rock hit “Brimful of Asha,” a sweet, infectious tribute to legendary Indian singer Asha Bhosle, you may not realize that the British band been laying down funky slabs of Indian-inflected Britpop before then and have been ever since. In fact, this collaboration between the Tjinder Singh-led group and Punjabi folk singer Bubbley Kaur qualifies as their seventh album, depending on how you count. It’s complicated.
Due to the collaborative nature of this effort, the proceedings diverge from the path Cornershop’s generally trodden. Gone are the playful, sometimes provocative lyrics, as the entire effort serves to introduce Bubbley Kaur, who sings the whole album in Punjabi, to Western audiences. If English lyrics are abandoned, however, the funk is here to stay, along with jazz, pop, and world music influences – as well as the robust Indian influence you’d expect. Rare it is that an album combines Western rock’n’roll instrumentation elegantly with Indian instrumentation like dholki, tamboura, tumbi, and, of course, sitar. But Singh and his long-time collaborator Benedict Ayres do so seamlessly, even throwing in some surprising Western instrumentation along the way.
Cornershop and the Double-O Groove Of opens with the hypnotic groove of “United Provinces of India,” which sets Kaur’s skipping vocals against rhythmic, repeating sitar. The songs that follow, especially “Topknot” and “Double Digit,” prove just as sinuous, just as delectably catchy. On the latter, rippling bass guitar plays beneath Kaur’s trills, accompanied by twitching sitar. It doesn’t matter whether you know the Punjabi language or not, the song’s gonna slip under your skin. “The 911 Curry” sounds like 1970s action soundtrack fodder with handclaps added in for good measure. Is the “911” a reference to 9/11 or maybe just to the emergency-inducing properties of some flaming hot curry? It doesn’t matter, but, oh, for some translated lyrics. After abandoning a martial-influenced introduction, “Natch” mashes up a traditional tune with funk bass rhythms. The lovely “Don’t Shake It” closes out the brief album and chugs along with piano loops backing Kaur’s gorgeous lilting vocals.
Perhaps the most delightful track here, the wonderfully named “Double Decker Eyelashes,” opens with harpsichord, which recurs against Kaur’s even-paced, soft, steady chirping. Born in New Dehli and raised in Lancashire, England, Bubbley Kaur proves a counterpoint to the incredibly prolific Asha Bhosle, since, if you can believe it, she had never been recorded before this album. Singh basically met her in the ‘hood and the two ended up spending time together, experimenting with different sounds and vocals until the two came up with “Natch.” The band released “Natch” as a single along with “Topknot” back in 2004, and this longer release has been in the works ever since. Singh wanted to create an album like this one for 20 years, saying he didn’t feel the need to rush the collaboration. Let’s be thankful he didn’t, since the result proves a delightfully arranged marriage between old-school Punjabi folk and Indian-flavored Britpop. Stir in some deep bass along with glitchy electronica and you’ve got yourself a glorious, surprisingly organic concoction. And as far as concoctions go, Double-O Groove Of also proves inexhaustibly sweet. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Let’s be honest though: Most Americans aren’t going to listen to this labor of love, simply because not a word of it’s in English. Their loss. This is an effort to fall in love with, so give it a listen. While you’re at it, check out the videos for “United Provinces of India” and “Topknot.” Both are deliriously colorful, joyful affairs just like the rest of the delectable treats served up here.Visit: Cornershop
Purchase: Insound | eMusic