Best of 2020: 17. Cornershop ‘England Is A Garden’

It was heartening to see the love for this album just as winter was coming to an end. It’s a record that sounded like it could engineer some of the most collectively joyful moments at the summer festivals and which would fill the nation’s venues with a huge, warm presence. A lot of people seemed to remember just how good Cornershop are and ‘England Is A Garden’ was certainly helping with that understanding. In the end, while its capacity for communal delight remains on pause, it achieved something not entirely dissimilar as one of the early subjects of Tim’s Twitter Listening Party. It wasn’t quite the raucous affairs that have since developed but it was lovely to witness people getting acquainted with this wonderful set of songs.

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As someone who writes about vinyl a lot, I try to avoid the word warm. It is often deployed about the format, not necessarily incorrectly, with reference to the fact that – essentially – the inherent flaws in the nature of such a means of playback often round off the sound in an endearing and less clinical fashion than other media. But ‘England Is A Garden’ is warm in sound and in nature. Flutes, violins, synths and big, splashy drums abound across an album which was surely great fun to record. As is so often the case with Cornershop, most of these songs could go on forever and give the impression of being euphoric jams out of which have been carved infectious chunks of pop.

It works best listened to in its entirety, but so many of these tracks could enliven pretty much any playlist or compilation you should wish to assemble. ‘St Marie Under Canon’ is a strident, soulful opening with a naggingly emphatic organ part that is as central to the song’s brilliance as its thoroughly hummable chorus. ‘No Rock Save In Roll’ takes a similar tack, but fuzz guitar and sitar are the dominant instruments this time around. These two tracks sandwich the lilting, back of your trouser leg dragging on the floor behind you rhythm of ‘Slingshot’, which is contrasted with the lightest, most buoyant flute line dancing about overhead.

‘Highly Amplified’ has a giddily melodic flourish towards its conclusion, apparently because the lyrics were too short, while ‘Everywhere That Wog Army Roam’ is the catchiest song not to be played on the radio this year.  ‘I’m A Wooden Soldier’ is a repetitive bit of Bolan-esque glam with some Eighties computer game noises thrown in for a good measure while the title track offers a brief, instrumental interlude before ‘Cash Money’  seems to offer a slower take on the structure of ‘No Rock Save In Roll’.

The penultimate track, ‘One Uncareful Lady Owner’, is ridiculously catchy, with a Hanna-Barbera drum part,  sitar played after three bags of Skittles and a chorus that doesn’t so much win you over as somehow induce nostalgia for something you’ve never heard. It encapsulates in just under four minutes what is so great about this album. Cornershop have always defied convention with the structure of their albums and the length of some of their songs, but they do it from the position of constant melody. Hooks are their trade and, no matter where else they might wander en route, their songs are a true tonic.

Buy ‘England Is A Garden’ from Drift

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