Nearly five years after the release of the vaunted When I Was Born for the Seventh Time, Cornershop has returned with another clever, kaleidoscopic, and ultimately unsatisfying album. What ails Handcream for a Generation is no easy call, however, given that there's so much there -- musically, lyrically, conceptually -- to recommend it.
On Handcream, frontman and producer Tjinder Singh continues to scavenge his North London digs for every sound rising up from those crowded streets -- sitars, funk, raga, '70s-style guitar rock, hip-hop, house music, and more -- and lovingly draws them all together. Or maybe not "lovingly" so much as "fastidiously," and there's the rub. "Staging the Plaguing of the Raised Platform" projects a summery fizz, synths zipping along its catchy refrain, replete with a children's chorus. But the song begs for a shot of the same euphoria Fatboy Slim gave "Brimful of Asha" once upon a time. Daft Punkish tracks "Music Plus One" and "The London Radar" come off like lab experiments: The beats are impeccable -- but where's the love?
You might find it on "Motion the 11," the album's best track, if only because a messy zest for music leaks out from under the mixing-board finesse. Singh dazzles and frustrates at once: Yet again, he's got all the right ideas -- but good God, man, wouldn't you rather throw a party than think about one?