“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today I’m thrilled to say it’s the return of Ben Ayres from Cornershop to pick a new tune since their album “England Is A Garden” is Velvet Sheep’s Album of the Year 2020 (joining the recent ranks of Nightingales, The Wedding Present, Band of Holy Joy and last year’s winner Big Stick).
In a year where an England that I didn’t dare recognise has been vying (and self immolating) to be a backwater of Europe, perhaps a garden where the outside toilet of previous generations is kept, and in a time in which we also have faced the unforeseen, and unseen terrors of a global pandemic – “England Is A Garden” has been an emollient to help ease the irritation and to calm the most troubled minds. Cometh the hour, cometh the Cornershop. I didn’t think I could love this band any more than I already did. The angry polemic is still there from their agit-punk beginnings, but it’s interwoven with a long learnt beautiful song-craft, and reassuringly deep grooves pooled from an impeccable music taste and deeply dug record crates. And just like they were in 1993 they are so totally right now, vital and full of vim, vigour and pure vibes.
Here’s the most excellent “Highly Amplified”, in a year where all the seasons were indistinguishable it was feel good hit of the spring/summer/autumn…
This is what I wrote about “England Is A Garden” on its release in March…
“England Is A Garden” is redolent of T-Rex, “Rocks” by Rolling Stones, “Rocks Off” by Primal Scream, “Everything Changes” by Love, old reggae classic as covered by Blondie “Girlie Girlie”, Woodstock vibes, Deep Purple, The Archies and 1910 Fruitgum Company. And yet it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard.
The singles are instant hits and soon to be hardy perennials (“St. Marie Under Canon” and ode to Sabbath and the heavy metal of Tjinder Singh’s Midlands upbringing “No Rock: Save In Roll”), while tunes like “Slingshot” originally commissioned for a Hindi Movie or glam swagger of “Highly Amplified” and “I’m A Wooden Soldier” are super-infused growers.
“Everywhere That Wog Army Roam” is a real highlight too, a return to the head-on use of reclaiming the acronym for “Western Oriental Gentleman” that became a racist epithet (see also song “Wog” from 1995’s “Woman’s Gotta Have It”) – on one hand a happy sounding anthem like the aforementioned Sophie George lovers rock reggae, on another a paen to the hazards of racial profiling which seemed bad when Cornershop first arrived, but which have got pervasively worse having bubbled to the surface with the societal breakdown at the heart of the divisive Brexit watershed. The most hummable provocative refrain since “Rape Me” by Nirvana features Singh proclaim “Everywhere that wog army roam/Policemen follow them.” in a 2020 mix between NWA & Junior Murvin.
Flutes cross sabres with sitars, tabla and 4-4 drums, occasionally stopping for a meditative rest at the style over the half broken stone wall, to take in birdsong and “Tomorrow Never Knows” backwards looping in the instrumental title tune before a hymn to the non-garden green that runs everything – even driving cynical decisions on who to buy life-saving equipment from – “The Cash Money”.
“One Uncareful Lady Owner” – (of a lonely heart?) is a nod to a want ad, and a return to the open road that began with the throttling punk of “Kawasaki (More Heat Than Chapati)” some 27 years ago, while album closer “The Holy Name” is an existential crisis wrapped up in a soothing blanket. How do we keep England as a garden? Once again Cornershop have more questions than answers, but this is more cliff hanger than cliff edge. Because as we know there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel (however long it is) there will always be a Cornershop ready to bring the Roy Ayers sunshine, Bolan boogie and the bristling lyrical barbs to these green and occasionally pleasant lands.”
To celebrate the “album of the year” spot on V.S. (not sure how coveted it is, but hey let’s pretend) I asked Ben back to choose a tune – especially as last time it was a real soul power peach…so without further ado, here’s Ben Ayres’ second “song for ewe”…
“I’ve been obsessed with this track since I picked up a well-worn 7” copy in a record shop in New York about 4 years ago…
Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces ‘ Searching For My Love’. It’s so heartfelt and killer in every respect…. There’s also something about it which reminds me of a lot of Van Morrison’s greatest recordings…. I never tire of this record, I could literally listen to it all day , every day, it’s a genius work of art.”
THANKS SO MUCH BEN. SEASON’S GREETINGS TO YOU AND YOURS.
Check out Cornershop’s own label “Ample Play” to get “England Is A Garden” and loads more classics.