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Tunes

Best tunes of 2002: #27 Cornershop “Lessons learned from Rocky I to Rocky III”

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Cornershop’s third album, “I was born for the 7th time” was released in 1997 to critical acclaim but it only became a massive hit for the band after Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, remixed the single “Brimful of asha” and that song hit the stratosphere. It took them five years to release a follow up album, “Handcream for a generation”, though the main players in the band, Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres, were anything but inactive. Of course, by the time 2002 rolled around, the buying public had moved on and the critics who fell over themselves for “I was born…” weren’t quite so enthused. I personally didn’t know what to think of it at first, beyond the obvious endearment of the grooves, but it has grown on me substantially over the years.

Some say their meteoric rise to fame is the inspiration behind the convoluted lyrics of this album’s second single, the awesomely titled, “Lessons learned from Rocky I to Rocky III”. There most definitely seem to be hits out at the music industry, at “soft rock shit”, at “TSB rock school”, and at hip hop stars bringing guns to meetings in A & R offices. However, all bets are off if you’re looking for depth here because Singh himself can’t account for the meaning in many of the tracks on this album. That is quite okay with me, though, because this tune really does rock and groove. Electric guitar hooks abound and funky drumming and soulful backing vocalists make it a real party. And Singh does his best Jagger swagger while he’s spouting this ‘nonsense’.

For the final word, I asked my friend Andrew Rodriguez to comment on the song and he came up with this:

“Packed lunches, chicks with dicks in miami beach and something about an Overgrown Supership. < lessons learned (and forget everything after 4)”

And this:

“That song in particular was referred to by some dumbf**k music critic as being ‘BTO esque’ ^^^seriously how do these cocks**kers have jobs???? *oh. wait. I answered my own question*”

Thanks again, Rodriguez.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

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Albums

Best albums of 1998: #4 Pulp “This is hardcore”

What do you get when you have a band, especially a talented and misunderstood frontman, that toils for years in obscurity, always hoping and striving for fame, finally reaches its goal with a couple of hit records and massive headline spots at top festivals, only to find out that the fame is not what he/they wanted in the end? You get an album like “This is hardcore”.

Indeed, Pulp’s previous record, their fifth, “Different class” had them out on top, almost two decades after a 15-year old Jarvis Cocker formed the band with his friend Peter Dalton. Pulp had seen multiple personnel changes over 1980s and they struggled mightily, releasing two albums to almost no impact on the music buying public. They started to gain traction with their third album, 1992’s “Separations”, and then, “His ‘n’ hers” truly broke the band in 1994. It’s sort of a chicken and the egg thing with Pulp and BritPop. Nevertheless, the scene’s wave carried the band with it to the pinnacles of fame and still, it seemed, Jarvis and company weren’t happy. The sixth album took a year to record and was a struggle from the beginning, perhaps this was partly due to the departure of long time member Russell Senior but the band persevered and the results were completely worth it.

When I first heard it, I was a bit thrown off as I’m sure a lot of people were. Of course, I was still young and looking for more of that glam rock to dance to and sing along with Cocker’s wry observations on love and sex and life in general. I wasn’t ready for all this jaded maturity and found the music too heavy on inaccessible side of the scale. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and with my own jaded maturity, I can now see “This is hardcore” for the masterpiece that it is. An album that is timeless and stands up to Pulp’s best work.

Sample, if you will, my three picks for you below and let me know your thoughts.


“A little soul”: Songs with titles like this are usually a bit more uplifting, soul or R&B pop tracks that shake it, suggesting that ‘little’ is an understatement. However, Cocker turns this idea on its head with a literal take on its theme. The narrative is of a man speaking to his son, likely not a direct conversation though, just one in his head, as he’s watching him from afar or looking at a photo of him. “You look like me but you’re not like me, I hope. I have run away from the one thing that I ever made.” It’s a tired sounding number, an end of the night ballad, a mellow blues band in an empty, echoing club, Cocker sounding sorrowful and full of regret and though he feels he doesn’t have any soul to share, there’s plenty here.

“Help the aged”: Another song here that’s a bit depressing. If you’re sensing a theme, you’re spot on. Amongst the screaming and searing guitars is Cocker eulogizing youthfulness and imploring the young to truly see seniors and not hide from their own mortality. “You can dye your hair but it’s the one thing you can’t change, can’t run away from yourself.” No, it’s not a charitable song, as its title suggests, but an introspective one. A midlife crisis in song form, rage and sadness in a four minute song rather than a red convertible.

“This is hardcore”: The title track is the epic, six and a half minute centrepiece of the album. The sound is very different from the synth glam of their previous record and Jarvis Cocker uses his usual lurid thematics here as an extended metaphor for how he sees the music industry. It’s a slow burning number, dark and seedy, likely something you might hear in a lower end strip joint while a disinterested performer moves to its crawling beat on the grimy stage. Cocker runs the gamut of hopes and dreams and foreplay to being spent and used in every way possible. ”Oh, this is hardcore. There is no way back for you.” This is a great band at peak form.


Check back next Thursday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Sloan “Navy blues”
9. Cake “Prolonging the magic”
8. Embrace “The good will out”
7. Mojave 3 “Out of tune”
6. Rufus Wainwright “Rufus Wainwright”
5. Manic Street Preachers “This is my truth now tell me yours”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2001: #21 Embrace “Wonder”

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I remember West Yorkshire-based five-piece, Embrace (not to be confused with the hardcore punk band of the same name) breaking on to the scene just as Britpop was on the wane. Their debut album, “The good will out”, blended the stadium ready trad rock of Oasis with the grandiose, orchestra compatible sound of The Verve’s “Urban hymns”. So, yes, it was big. And their sound, combined with their honest, almost to the point of trite sounding songwriting, created just as much animosity towards them as it did fans. For my own part, I had drunk the Britpop kool-aid years before so, of course, I loved it.

“Drawn from memory”, the second album by the band, was a lot more toned down and stripped back and I’m not sure if it was that or the continuing Britpop backlash but it did nowhere as well as the debut. For their third album, the brothers McNamara and company tried to mix the best of what worked for the first two albums and it resulted in what I think is their least successful work. However, “If you’ve never been” is not without its bright spots. In my opinion, “Wonder” is definitely one of these.

If you’ve never listened to the group before, you might listen to the song and think: “Man, these guys are riding the coattails of Travis or Keane or early Coldplay”. In actuality, it was the other way around. Much like other songs that could be tersely termed ‘adult alternative’, “Wonder” is inoffensive music that cannot quite be slid into pop territory. It’s big but not too big, espousing a singalong feel and foot tapping beat. And its got this guitar effect that sounds like its moving back and forth between your earphones, almost willing you to sway your head back and forth and mouth the “la la la”s on the bus commute to work.

Yeah. It’s that kind of song. Perfect for a hump day like today.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.