We all have a friend in our lives that comes and goes. For a moment in time they may be your best or only friend that you have around. Other times, you may go months or years without hearing from them. The cycle continues times and time again, the friendship coming in and out of focus as it needs to do so. That’s my relationship with the band Cornershop.
I hadn’t listened to the band for many years. Of course like most people I got into them when their single “Brimful of Asha” came over the airwaves back in around 1997. I was a teen who was absorbing everything that he could musically and this stuff just sounded so great to me. It was unique pop music with a character of its own. Nothing else sounded like it and that was good. I filed them away in my brain as one of those amazing bands and then continued my teenage deep dive into all things from The Beach Boys. I did not forget Cornershop. I set them aside for the next time we’d come in contact.
That next time was 2002 when the band birthed my favourite album of theirs, HANDCREAM FOR A GENERATION. A gem of an album, a journey from start to finish, the album was really the thing that took them from being that band with one amazing album under their belts to being an amazing band with two albums under their belts that should not be forgotten about. It’s hard enough to create a song that makes an impact. Doing it over a full album is even harder. Once you’ve done it with two albums you as a listener know that there’s something special going on.
The band continued through the years: JUDY SUCKS A LEMON FOR BREAKFAST in 2009 was another delight. CORNERSHOP AND THE DOUBLE ‘O” GROOVE OF was a slight departure for the band but it still worked. The band kept pumping out great music and they kept weaving in and out of my life. They’d be here for a moment and then they’d be gone. They always brought happiness when they came into my life and then they faded without any drama. And every time they came back it was always a joyous ocassion.
Cornershop came back into my life right after my family and I moved to New Zealand in late 2019. Those days were joyous yet glossed over with a tiredness that comes from immigrating to a new country and getting adjusted to a very different way of life. They were amazing yet at the same time some of the most tiring moments that I have ever lived through. Cornershop squeezed its way back in during all of this when they announced a new album coming out in March 2020 titled ENGLAND IS A GARDEN.
The first two singles brought joy to my ears as I welcomed the band back into my life with a giant bear hug. “No Rock, Save In Roll” was a good rock n’ roll stomper that brought some bop to my morning walks to work. “St. Marie Under Canon” really lit up my eardrums and got me smiling. The drum beat sank into my brain the moment I heard it and it hasn’t left. The stage was set and I anxiously awaited the album.
In the time of Covid-19, I can’t think of a better band and album to spend lots of my time with. From start to finish, ENGLAND IS A GARDEN is a gem to listen to. It’s not only great to listen to but it makes you feel good things. You think about your place in the world as you listen to the album. You realise just how wonderful and special it is to be alive no matter what is going on all around you. The music connects you to the things happening all around you in the world yet at the same time it provides an escape. The title track “England Is A Garden” is a perfect example of this. At 1 minute 45 seconds, the track may be short but in just that amount of time that song takes you away from everything you are and everything in front of you and takes you to one of the most beautiful places that has ever existed. You forget about anything bad in the world as you listen to the guitars intersect with the lovely chirping of the birds over top of some of the best flute you’ve ever heard in your goddamn life. The best music will connect you to the world and at the same time provide an amazing escape from everything that you want to escape from. I don’t want to think about Covid-19 right now, so I listen to “England Is A Garden”. But as I listen to it, I’m reminded that no matter how scary Covid-19 is that at the same time we’re all going to get through it and that we’re going to come out stronger and more together than before.
You don’t put a number rating or give a certain number of stars to music like this. You don’t have to apply any kind of grading to music like this. All that you have to do is let it exist in the world and take it in when you need it. Cornershop is a band that allows you to do that. Over the course of their history, they’ve invited you into their world of music when you need it and they’re OK with you then leaving when it is time for you to go. This has been the case with me and Cornershop for over 20 years of my life. But things feel different with the arrival of ENGLAND IS A GARDEN. With this album, it feels like they’re moving into my house. It feels like they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. And I’m ok with that.
Thanks for the music Tjinder and Ben.