Pop: Brimful of talent

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Indy Lifestyle Online
"A bright moment in a dull year for UK music" was how John Peel praised Cornershop back in 1992.

Peel has always championed the band, who started out as a somewhat ramshackle indie guitar outfit with a penchant for sitar, feedback and political messages. A couple of early singles won them wide admiration, but by the middle of this decade, even though they were building a solid base in Europe and the USA, they slid into anonymity here.

Then, last year, they released When I Was Born for the 7th Time, a fusion of funk, sitar-laden folk-rock, dub and hip-hop, comprising 15 tracks of eclectic excellence, from the opening Cajun refrains of "Sleep on the Left Side" to the woozy country of "It's Good to be on the Road Back Home Again" and "Norwegian Wood" sung in Punjabi. Also on here was "Brimful of Asha", remixed by Norman Cook. Huge amounts of airplay dictated that this should be a proper single release, and it duly flew to the number one spot in February.

It was around this time that Cornershop, trawling round on another day of interviews and radio chats, got into a lift at the BBC and in walked Peel.

"I suppose everyone is being really nice to you all of a sudden," were his first words to the band. They went to lunch and Peel suggested they play the Meltdown 98 season which he is currently organising on the South Bank. Even though they had 16 European festival commitments in June, Cornershop said yes.

Talk to vocalist Tjinder Singh about Cornershop's seemingly incredible comeback and he'll point out that, "We were doing a lot of different things when we started out - stuff that's only been picked up on with the last album. All the things we do now were there in the beginning, but we've probably just got better at it."

While they are still largely perceived as an indie band in this country, over in the USA, where they've just completed another tour, Cornershop command a wider respect.

They are signed to David Byrne's Luaka Bop label and their gigs are crowded out with hip-hop kids. Singh will defend at length his thesis that traditional Punjabi music and hip-hop have much musical common ground.

Much of When I Was Born for the 7th Time falls into a happy hip-hop frame of mind and it's fitting that Cornershop's next single will have mixes by DJ Numark and Cut Chemist, from Jurassic 5, the LA hip-hop crew in the vanguard of an old-skool revival.

It's sensitivities such as these which make Cornershop a truly global band, and one of the highlights of Peel's fine Meltdown 98 season.

Cornershop: Royal Festival Hall, SE1 (0171-960 4242) 30 Jun

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