It seemed like the U.K.’s Cornershop blew up from nowhere in 1997 when they stormed the charts with the sparkling and trippy “Brimful of Asha.” In fact, this was their third album, and the band had been fusing musical cultures since 1992.

Midlands-based Cornershop (named after the British stereotype that Asians own corner shops), featuring songwriter and vocalist Tjinder Singh, had been busy blending electronica, Indian music, pop and rock and roll long before they hit the charts with “Brimful of Asha.” The original version of the single reached No. 60 on the U.K charts, but once Fatboy Slim did his remix magic, Cornershop had a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and a No. 16 hit in America.

The band may never again have such fame and chart success, but that’s more to do with their love of the eclectic than Cornershop being any kind of a one hit wonder. The quality of this album alone is proof that Cornershop remain one of the most interesting, most challenging and inspiring bands to come out of the U.K. in the ‘90s.

Singh wrote all the songs on the record, except a brilliant reworking of “Norwegian Wood,” sung by Singh in his native Punjabi language. Obviously “Brimful of Asha” takes the headlines, not because it was a hit in re-mix form, but simply because it’s a pop classic. The simplicity of the three-chord trick guitar backing hides a multitude of melodic and lyrical layers and levels that make this pure pop for the soul and the brain.

The seemingly nonsensical lyrics, at least to anyone outside of the Asian culture, are really a heartfelt tribute to Asian Bollywood icon Asha Bhosle (“Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, everybody needs a bosom.”) This was multiculturalism at its very best, and it opened doors for a string of artists to freely mix and match their own cultural instincts and nuances into music.

At first, “Sleep on the Left Side” sounds similar to “Brimful of Asha,” but that soon changes as the song flowers with a musical chorus of flutes, accordions and melodic repetition that give the song a wonderful cohesion. “Funky Days Are Back Again” is upbeat Asian funk that sees the band’s electronic influences at the fore. The instrumental “Chocolat” is delightful, a perfect Sunday morning contemplative piece that delivers its Indian influence with a deep understanding of where that music fits in modern Asian culture. And to show his depth, Singh lets fly on “Good to Be on the Road Back Home Again,” featuring xylophone of all things in an almost soul-country format with a dash of electronica.

When I Was Born for the 7th Time is a pioneering album. Its imaginative use of lyric and melody illustrated a new England – a new British-Asian culture – that was blossoming and growing in Blair’s England; it is impressive on both an intellectual and social level. But as a pop record with a mind-blowing parade of sounds and delightfully varied instrumentation, Singh’s total absorption of different musical styles and cultures, coupled with his prodigious ability to fuse them into something delightful, is more than impressive; it is nothing short of inspiring. Look up ‘synergy’ in the dictionary – it should just read, ‘Cornershop.’

Track Listing:

1. Sleep on the Left Side
2. Brimful of Asha
3. Butter the Soul
4. Chocolat
5. We’re in the Yr Corner
6. Funky Days are Back Again
7. What Is Happening?
8. When the Light Appears Boy
9. Coming Up
10. Good Sh*t
11. Good to Be on the Road Back Home
12. It’s Indian Tobacco My Friend
13. Candyman
14. State Troopers (Part 1)
15. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)