A few years ago, Cornershop’s somewhat capricious practices threw up a single called “Topknot”, fronted by a singer, Bubbley Kaur, who Tjinder Singh claimed that he’d discovered singing in a laundrette. A sort of hugely enjoyable bubblegum Punjabi folk song, it was trailed as the first track from a whole album of Cornershop/Bubbley Kaur collaborations.
Not atypically of Cornershop, the trail went dead almost immediately, and when “Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast” came out a couple of years ago, Kaur was nowhere to be heard on it. It’s a mistake, though, to underestimate the doggedness of Singh and Ben Ayres; so here, finally – and after Lord knows how many setbacks, hiatuses, business conundrums and so on – is “Cornershop & Double ‘O’ Groove Of…”, a full set of new Cornershop jams, fronted by the honeyed Bubbley Kaur.
If you’ve been in any way deterred by the glammish riffing that’s taken prime place on the last couple of Cornershop albums, “Double ‘O’ Groove” will be especially welcome. Essentially, it’s another episode in the career of one of Britain’s most idiosyncratic and cherishable bands – one who haven’t been particularly well served by the one-hit wonder daftness that’s stuck to them since “Brimful Of Asha”.
There’s actually precious little guitar anywhere to be found on “Double ‘O’ Groove”, save a ravishing acoustic cycle that runs through the closing “Don’t Shake It”. Mostly, Singh and Ayres craft together unsteady fusions involving sitars, looped samples (a curious vibe of ‘70s Open University idents, possibly?), analogue gloop and some very serious breaks. Over this Kaur sings in a joyous, unperturbed way, seemingly oblivious to what’s going on beneath her.
These are far from seamless fusions – it feels more like it’s been Gaffataped together. But that’s part of the charm – and, I suspect, part of the point. I’m not sure whether it’s Ben playing the bass here, but that seems to be the most powerful force on the record besides Kaur’s voice. Rarely, I think, has Cornershop’s love of funk come across in such a warm and effective way.
Which means that my current favourite on the album, “The Biro Pen”, especially, sounds like one of the best things the band have done in a career that must have been rolling haphazardly on for the best part of 20 years now. I keep thinking of an Indian folk recasting of “Grooving With Mr Bloe”…