Handcream For A Generation

RS: 3.5of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 5of 5 Stars


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The fourth Cornershop album disproves the old groan about how, as the world gets smaller, the music turns uniform: that we are many people making one pop. Handcream for a Generation is a festive crash of cultures, a Babel of loops and ethnic body language. Dixie R&B, Bollywood kitsch, Crooklyn hip-hop, Eurotrash electronics -- singer-songwriter and producer Tjinder Singh shakes 'em up like rats in a box, finding kicks and connections in aggressive pastiche. A cheese-ball synth spikes the hard-core reggae toasting in "Motion the 11," like Keith Emerson crashing a U-Roy session. The leap from "Super Sound Recordings" (a mock-radio ad with frenetic tabla) to "The London Radar" (pure disco and flight-deck chatter) makes you feel like you've been shot from a Bombay market to Heathrow air-traffic control. The house-raga "Spectral Mornings," with Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher in high George Harrison gear, runs for a quarter-hour without running short of incense.

Singh tends to write settings more than songs: "Staging the Plaguing of the Raised Platform" is a sweet mouthful (celesta, abusive guitar, a kids' chorale), but it lacks the concise charge of Cornershop's 1997 hit, "Brimful of Asha." A conflicted son of Indian heritage and British citizenship, Singh is at his best when he seethes with dislocation. In "Wogs Will Walk," co-produced with Rob Swift of the X-ecutioners, Singh updates the scrappy temper of Cornershop's early Indo-thrash EPs, defacing a garage-soul organ with computer war-game bleep and an acidic chanted vocal, like Sly Stone's funk nightmare, There's a Riot Goin' On, seeping through a boombox in a Punjabi village. And you will fall hard for the love-hate of "Lessons Learned From Rocky I to Rocky III," a scoffing monument to 1970s rock corn as hot and crude as the real thing. "The overgrown supershit," Singh calls it, over and over, in the chorus. The same goes for the whole album.

(RS 8894 - April 25, 2002)

(Posted: Mar 27, 2002)