Cornershop: Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast

Stephen Rylance

Cornershop reopen for business with a dip into the melting pot of British Asian pop.


Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast

Label: Ample Play/101 Distribution
US Release Date: 2009-08-04
UK Release Date: 2009-07-27

It's seven years since the last installment of the Cornershop saga arrived in the form of the brilliantly-named Handcream for a Generation. Almost a generation on, Tjinder Singh and co may be child-rearing thirty-somethings but they're still bedroom-mirror romantics with one foot stuck firmly in the days of the Ford Cortina. If anything, the nostalgia dial has been turned up: Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast is an album that often seems to be playing on a dansette in a glitterball-lit corner of Hanif Kureishi's frontal lobe.

Opener "Who Fingered Rock and Roll" is a melange of vintage Stones riffs and spangly Bolan boogie that tethers its 'yeah yeah yeahs' to a punky message about the besmirching of our collective pop innocence. It's followed by "Soul School", a melodic, sitar-drenched tribute to 1970s adolescence, evoking long summer Saturday afternoons listening to seven-inch singles round your mate's house.

The retro theme continues on the title track. It starts by walking an irresistible blues-boogie bassline, adds swinging harmonies, bursts of machine gun fire and a bassoon, and culminates in a soaring climax of righteous soul vocals. Singh still has a way of slinging around cool-sounding nonsensical phrases (“Up-blues rock is the outta town rock") pitched somewhere between nursery rhyme and revolutionary slogan.

"'Free Love" is a sublime, strings-laden trip into traditional Punjabi folk filtered backwards through the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", while the single "The Roll-Off Characteristics (Of History in the Making)" breezes by on a magic carpet ride of honky tonk piano, crisp guitar licks and delicious chunks of burnished trombone. As he assures us that, "War ain't nothing but bad technical plip-plop,” Tjinder sounds more than ever like he's singing the theme to a particularly hip children's TV program.

"Operation Push", a paean to the delights of dub and the era that produced it, piles on layers of echo chamber and jets of juddering sub-bass to celebrate "The last song that the world ever sung". After a straightforward cover of Dylan's "The Mighty Quinn" (the Manfred Mann version was apparently the first single the young Tjinder ever bought), "The Constant Springs" meanders along passably, while instrumental "Chamchu" is an agreeable dub-bhangra soundclash. By the time we roll around to "The Turned On Truth” - 17 epic minutes of blissed-out, redemptive gospel wrapped around a riff resurrected from "Brimful of Aisha" - it feels like a cheeky, self-referential triumph, albeit far too bloody long.

Cornershop are still holding a candle for an idealised pop moment fixed in time and space; a semi-mythic golden age, when melting-pot Britain was the musical crossroads of the world. This place has precise co-ordinates and Cornershop always know their way back there.

To listen to Judy is to feel nostalgic, not just for the musical era it celebrates, but for that period in the 90s when Cornershop were themselves forging a new British pop vocabulary. They're still writing love letters to their record collections, and there are times when Judy feels a little too much like a commemorative musical photo album.

But when the irrepressible Cornershop charm kicks in, such thoughts seem churlish. Judy is as wide-eyed and upbeat as indie pop will get this year. When it sounds this fresh, Cornershop's brand of revamped revolutionary retro is well worth a reprise.





Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.


The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.


Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.


Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.


Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.


Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.


Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.


Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.


The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.


Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.