Disco and the Halfway to Discontent

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As the name Clinton suggests, Ben Ayres and Tjinder Singh's "vacation" from Cornershop delivers a lot of funk mixed with some social commentary. Their debut album, Disco and the Halfway to Discontent, explores the politics of dancing -- or dance music, at any rate -- by applying a stripped-down, lo-fi sensibility to disco's glitter, reggae's groove, and funk's insistent pulse. The opening track, "People Power in the Disco Hour," is one of their best dance manifestos, combining a bare-bones beat with funky bass, wobbly synths, and lyrics like "Disco is the halfway/ To a full discontent/ We're gonna take this movement down to the streets." Though it's starkly rhythmic where Cornershop songs like "Brimful of Asha" are lush and trippy, Singh's appealing vocals and the duo's accessible songwriting provide the link between their two projects. Good moments and ideas abound on Disco..., including the sweetly intoned Indian vocals and rousing brass on "Buttoned Down Disco," the rippling electric pianos and snappy drum rolls of "Sing Hosanna," and "Hip Hop Bricks"' low-rider bass, smoky flutes, and processed vocals; however, too many of these good ideas drag on for too long without progressing. "The Hot for May Sound," "Saturday Night and Dancing," "Mr. President," and "Welcome to Tokyo, Otis Clay" all start out with clever melodies and arrangements, and all of them are left underdeveloped. This, added to the album's lo-fi sound quality, sometimes makes Disco and the Halfway to Discontent seem like a demo tape for Cornershop's new, dance-inspired direction. With some pruning, this could have been an excellent album, but is merely a fairly enjoyable one instead. Cornershop fans who didn't buy the import of Disco and the Halfway to Discontent are rewarded with two bonus tracks: the "Fila Brazilia Disco Frisco Mix" of "Buttoned Down Disco," which keeps the original's sugary vocals and horns and adds sitars and speedy breakbeats to give the song added impact, and "David D. Chambers," a synth and scratching free-for-all set to another stark hip-hop beat. Though this album may please some of Singh and Ayres' fans, it's equally likely to frustrate them as well.

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