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Cornershop - Urban Turban: The Singhles Club

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Artist: Cornershop

Album: Urban Turban: The Singhles Club

Label: Ample Play

Review date: May. 15, 2012

At its most potent, the 45 rpm single is the great democratizer of popular music — one song a side, cheap enough to take a punt on with spare change or worth pumping a dime into a jukebox, a seductive slab of black vinyl that, heard with the right frame of mind, still unlocks the magic of song for three glorious minutes. A talismanic object, even in the dematerialized world of the MP3, to motion the 45 is to let the outside world in on your secret plan. Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres of Cornershop have understood this for a long time, from their first batch of 7” singles on Wiiija, journalistic missives from the Riot Grrrl front-lines, to their breakthrough hit, “Brimful of Asha,” and its attendant video’s lounge-room stereo fantasia.

So, in typical Cornershop style, there’s now the Singhles Club, a run of ‘one-sided’ downloads with individual screen-prints, the first batch of which are compiled on Urban Turban: The Singhles Club, the group’s long-play statement for 2012. The freedom of the rapid-fire “singles club” has Singh and Ayres at their most creative and all-encompassing, piecing together bricolage pop from intercontinental popular culture. They haven’t been quite this voracious since their masterpiece, 2002’s Handcream For A Generation, and like that record there are plenty of side-roads, hints and wordplay dotted throughout Urban Turban, from the simple genius of their ”it’s as solid gold as solid gold, as roller-rink as the color pink” lyric in (what else) “Solid Gold” through to their list song, the kids’ anthem “What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag?”

Throughout Urban Turban, Cornershop focus in on a fantasized modern dance floor, where multiplicity rules the roost. The filters on “Solid Gold” are pure French touch, and the rapturous threading of micro-samples that dot the song’s event horizon recalls Todd Edwards. The preceding “Non-Stop Radio” has French vocalist Celeste sing-speaking over a tight weave of electro-funk vamps that recall Zapp & Roger. On “Milkin’ It,” rapper In The Light Of Aquarius shouts out his predecessors across one of Cornershop’s most lithe, brittle-boned beats, with synth-noise drooling over the track like play putty. They return to their roots in post-Velvets pop on “Something Makes You Feel Like,” which takes the eternal riff of “Sweet Jane” and matches it with SoKo’s lisping sigh.

Urban Turban is consolidation for Cornershop, pulling together old and new tracks and showing as many hands as they can. And to be fair, it’s nowhere near as holistic a listening experience as the heartbreaking beauty of their Cornershop And The Double-O Groove Of… collaboration with vocalist Bubbley Kaur. But the key to Urban Turban is in two of the song titles, “Beacon Radio 303” and “Non-Stop Radio.” This is Cornershop with their antennae out, their state-of-the-nation address over amplitude modulation, 45s dropping on the mat and tone-arms on alert as the dB levels singe just into the red, and each song broadcasts across dusty streets, out of windows open to the night air, rustling through beaded curtains in the doorway, spinning its way around the community. Soundtracking the locale.

By Jon Dale

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