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'England is a Garden' Review: Cornershop gives contemporary nod to vinyl culture soaked in ethnic ingredients

The band's new LP takes you on a nostalgic trip to '60s, '70s soft rock, reminiscent of artists like 'Beach Boys' playfully blended with 'Talking Heads'
UPDATED MAR 19, 2020
Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres (Ollie Millington/Redferns)
Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres (Ollie Millington/Redferns)

British indie rock band 'Cornershop' have come up with their new album 'England is a Garden' on March 6, making it their first full-length studio album released after a gap 5 years.

There previous album was 'Hold On It's Easy', which was released back in 2015.

With a name originating from a stereotype referring to British Asians often owning corner shops, 'Cornershop' plays on all lo-fi fields of music and relishes it. As if in tribute to the vinyl culture, their new LP takes you on a nostalgic trip to '60s, '70s soft rock reminiscent of artists like 'Beach Boys' playfully blended with 'Talking Heads', and even easy-listening reflections of 'The Mike Flowers Pops' or 'The Byrds'.

Cornershop surprised many music enthusiasts of the '90s when they churned out the highly-acclaimed hit 'Brimful of Asha' in 1997. Originally, it barely scraped through the top 70 on the charts in 1997, but Fatboy Slim sniffed out the potential hit and began adding his DJ spin on the number giving it a makeover that took the indie underdogs to the masses. The song was later re-released and hit No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, taking the phrase "everybody needs a bosom for a pillow" to the nation and even topping Céline Dion's 'Titanic' anthem.

Coming as a sort of ethnic surfer's album, 'England is a Garden' takes on a number of instruments that wouldn't usually be found in contemporary alternative rock music. Born in the U.K., frontman Tjinder Singh's Indian heritage and western influences both come through with instruments such as flute, sitar, tamboura and light percussive, amongst many others (even birds chirping makes an aesthetic entrance on the LP's title track). The whole album feels like it's been blessed with an informal and non-pomp orchestra that leaves you with an urge to dig up hidden gems and clues to its non-conformities. 

Adam Blake, Ben Ayres and Tjinder Singh of Cornershop perform on the main stage during the first day of Wychwood music Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on June 3, 2011, in Cheltenham, United Kingdom (Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns)

'Slingshot' slides its way in as a stoner's walk-in-the-park with its meandering instrumentation of bird-like singing on the flute and laidback funky bass. The best part is Singh's vocals come through on a megaphone in both English and Hindi. 'King Kongs' brings in the brass on the intro and complex fill-in on the drums breaks it before the charming melody comes in while string instrumentation both soothes and plays with listeners.

The sitar addition adds a colorful layer to the multiple dimensions of the track. 'I'm A Wooden Soldier' gets a country/ blues-inspired crunchy guitar melody and we get a similar rhythm to 'Brimful of Asha', albeit the song adds warping spacy instrumentation, which one may need to wear a tinfoil hat for.

'England is a Garden's' title track is certainly a signature sound of 'Cornershop' and should be viewed as theatrical storytelling as you kick back on your chair or veranda stool and take in your surroundings, or even the garden-themed surroundings in the track. As a perfect pair to the bird-like melodies played by the flute in many of the album's songs, 'England is a Garden' uses the addition of chirps while befriending the instrument and one gets a brush of ethnic purity along with the Indian tabla percussion.'

'Cornershop' has pulled out an all-round great and enjoyable album, although it doesn't accelerate on all cylinders and goes beyond those adjectives. The album is not one you would play at high-energy parties, but rather classifies as easy-listening and casually calls its listeners to dwell in its amble themes, a sort of trippy, twangy, and gently-playful cocktail.