England is a Garden

Back after a five-year break, Cornershop's new album stands as a testament to their lasting but oft-unnoticed magic, finds Jo Higgs

As straight forward drums and a wholesomely warm melodic bassline pull in a mellow Hammond organ, ‘St Marie Under Canon’, provides an ironically paradisiacal sonic space – perhaps a tongue in cheek hint towards the Anglicised Eden-type haven in the album title.

Cornershop are no strangers to politically astute humour (their own name is a comment on the stereotypes faced by British Asians), and thus in a newly post-Brexit climate it seems no surprise that this explicitly imposed racial suffocation (and general political havoc) would only provoke a greater vitality out of Tjinder Singh and the rest of the band.

Often unfairly, albeit positively, remembered only for their old number one single, ‘Brimful of Asha’, Cornershop may not have remained a particularly relevant outfit for all of their nearly thirty years together, but England is a Garden stands as a testament to their lasting but oft-unnoticed magic.

On the short but sweet instrumental title track the listener is delicately placed into an strikingly relaxing atmosphere of white-fluffy cloud-like woodwind floating about as the winding long grass of acoustic guitar and the soft soil foundation of Indian-style percussion combine as a pillow to lay on and absorb all that is around. The stunning synthesis of Eastern arrangement and Western melodic composition provides a blissful but depressingly unattainable ideal Eden-esque space.

Sonically opposed to the title track (at least within the context of this project) is the gruff and fuzzy dance-rock ‘No Rock: Save in Roll’. Its psychedelic sound and attitude echo the late 60s even more than is so frequently done on the band’s previous projects; with lingering sitar and high-end guitars flickering in and quickly back out, sparse and free, it embodies the liberal feeling one could only assume is intended. As well as providing a sharp and unforgiving buzz of a brutal soundscape, it is a haplessly gritty lamentation of Singh’s home of the English Midlands in spite of the political undertones (and overtones of the album).

England is a Garden is a beautiful and well-worked project. The five years wait it induced is retrospectively more than worth it as it is one of the most thoughtful and listenable albums the band have unleashed for quite a stretch of time. Simultaneously old-school psychedelic and contemporary indie-rock, the sound born out of this combination is product of the cleverly and often subtly infused Eastern influences into what are essentially well-written pop songs.

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