Clinton

Disco and the Halfway to Discontent

Clinton
Disco and the Halfway to Discontent
(Astralwerks)

A Cornershop side project seems almost unnecessary. The British band -- best known for its hit "Brimful of Asha" -- merges Indian melodies and instrumentation with Western rock, folk, punk, and dance music. The Cornershop banner, in other words, covers a lot of ground. As Clinton, band members Ben Ayres and Tjinder Singh bring lots of disco to the mix (hence the album title), lessen the Indian vibe, and strip away most of the vocals.

Disco is less coherent and song-oriented than a Cornershop record, wandering on breakbeats and electronic instrumental passages. Frequently Clinton runs into the problem that can result when rockers go electronic -- they forget to write songs because they are in love with the sound of new instruments. The analog synths and hand percussion of "Giddian Di Rani" drone and swirl, but they seem to run in place. Instead of building and releasing tension, the song simply offers a quick sitar break.

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More successful are the numbers that combine Cornershop's strong suits -- specifically off-kilter Eastern melodies and Singh's dry, dour voice -- with disco aspirations. Midway though the record, the duo briefly hits its stride. A blaxploitation-soundtrack bass line on "The Hot For May Sound" introduces the song before it settles into a relaxed groove as Singh's vocals jump in and out of the rhythm. "Electric Ice Cream (Miami Jammies)" is another of the few songs on which Singh actually sings, and it's the best of the lot. He and Ayres build a mini-monster of a track out of a popping bass, an old-school drumbeat, a string sample, and some scratching. It's dense and tense but danceable. The instrumental "GT Road" relies on sitar and tabla loops combined with female moaning straight from a porn movie. Hypnotic in its loping tempo and rhythm, "Road" suggests that Clinton's experimentation can pay dividends, if only sporadically. -- David Simutis

 
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