Cornershop takes its time between albums. Its last album, Handcream for a Generation, appeared in 2002. The album before that, the hit-making When I Was Born for the 7th Time, came out in 1997. In between them, there was 2000’s Disco Is the Halfway to Discontent, which—because Cornershop leader Tjinder Singh likes shooting himself in the foot—came out under the band name Clinton.
(In the mid-1990s, Singh and company were faster, but not as good—just a straightforward indie-punk band that could barely play its instruments. It’s not that Woman’s Gotta Have It or Hold On, It Hurts aren’t good, but the fusion of punk, Indian folk, disco, and impressionistic lyrics wasn’t perfected until 1997’s opus.)
The band’s chosen genre, pop, ain’t one that’s much made for longevity or long-term memory. So, I admire the band for its spite, for Singh’s sheer cocky willingness to release records on his own lazy schedule, as if it were big enough—like Madonna, or Michael Jackson, or Bruce Springsteen—to sustain a fanbase despite its slowness.
And maybe Singh is right. I’m still following them, after all. They’ve been trickling out new songs, and new album titles (Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast? Seriously, guys?), since 2003’s “Topknot.” The full CD EP featured a remix featuring the just-ascendant M.I.A. and a cover of “The Battle of New Orleans,” complete with sitar. The MySpace page includes a hard-rock instrumental anthem called “Who Fingered Rock and Roll?” (in the vein of Handcream’s brilliant “Lessons Learned from Rocky I through Rocky III”), and a song, “Easy Winners Part 1,” that sounds like electrofunk with robot voices. It’s just enough to tease fans, to keep us febrile and poised for booty-shaking goodness. The singles have a habit of slipping away; I bought “Topknot” on iTunes two years ago but a quick check reveals that it’s no longer available there. “Wop the Groove” slipped onto the website in 2006 without much fanfare, though it seems DJs were paying lots of attention.
And now another slow burner’s made it to the airwaves—“The Roll Off Characteristics (of History in the Making).” It starts with sitar, adds a horn section and a super beat within seconds, and features Singh riffing on global politics with that honeyed, casual but insistent voice. In short, it’s classic Cornershop, perfect for the headphones and the dancefloor.
Even better, there’s a video, crisply shot and jubilantly edited by Prashant Bhargava. As with his video for “Topknot,” Bhargava shot Indians at work and play in steadicam documentary style, and makes cuts so that the song seems to emerge from them. “Roll Off Characteristics” shows off a street festival—with firecrackers, dancing children, women in saris. I doubt everyone’s dancing, singing, and playing along with the Cornershop song, but Bhargava’s editing and rich compositions makes it seem that way.
Perhaps this is a cut from the forthcoming album; perhaps it’s just a random single given to the world. In any case, it’s good to have Cornershop—the laziest great band “working”—back in action.