After a long dormant period, Cornershop has lately been making up for lost time by chain-releasing albums. First came 2009’s Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast, which played like a direct sequel to 2002’s beat-driven Handcream For A Generation; and then Cornershop And The Double-O Groove Of, which was the band’s most Punjabi-heavy album yet. Now Urban Turban: The Singhles Club splits the difference, bringing together an assortment of Cornershop’s recent one-offs and collaborations, which as assembled feel a lot like leftovers from the previous two records. Once Cornershop gets past the funny opening song “What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag?”—which is little more than a list of wacky items, accompanied by a children’s chorus and a peppy dance track that sounds similar to Cornershop classics “Staging The Plaguing Of The Raised Platform” and “Sleep On The Left Side”—Urban Turban ventures more into clubland, with songs that emphasize rhythms and riffs, not lyrics.
In fact, Cornershop’s most recognizable element—frontman Tjinder Singh’s sleepy voice—is absent from the rest of Urban Turban, aside from a tacked-on remix version of “Hippie.” Instead, following up on Double-O Groove’s use of Bubbley Kaur’s vocals on every track, the new album features a string of guest singers, most of whom are female. The advantage to this is that it allows Singh and company to explore a lot of different sides of the band, which throughout its career has been known to careen from punk to disco to worldbeat. Urban Turban tosses out electro-funk with French lyrics on “Non-Stop Radio,” grubby femme-fronted indie rock on “Something Makes You Feel Like,” hypnotic house music on “Dedicated,” a Fall-like art-dance concoction on “Milkin’ It,” and hybrids of Pacific Rim pop and island dub on multiple songs.
All of this is creative and fun, but also a little half-baked, and ultimately impersonal. Too many songs on Urban Turban are little more than a few repeated lines over an internationalist club mix, and while that’s generally enjoyable, it lacks the sense of vision and direction that has defined Cornershop at its best.