music: Corduroy transcends Acid Jazz

I somehow found out about Acid Jazz in 1992 entirely through a few compilation CDs.

One of them (100% Acid Jazz) contained an effervescent funky pop song called “Mini” by Corduroy, about… the Mini car.

I like the way your eyes light up in the dark, I like the way it don’t take much for you to start. Mini! No one takes me further than you

(The song cries out for a music video,and there was one, but sadly the Internet only has a partial poor quality capture.)

Who is Corduroy? What else did they record? At the time the internet couldn’t tell me, and they had no albums in my local record stores.

Friends’ adventures with their Mini reminded me of the song, and now of course obscure bands aren’t so obscure. It turns out Corduroy is a strong English band with an intriguing mix of retro soundtrack style and acid jazz chops. “Mini” is from the 1994 album “Out of Here” on the Acid Jazz label (talk about pigeonholing!). Other tracks are also strong, but some are so tight they’re airless. The title song is a gentle getaway song with a perfect piano solo from Scott Addison.The End of the Rainbow” has a killer intro they smartly repeat for the bridge, then lays out into a weak funky jam. “January Woman” borrows the opening chords and guitar sound of Steely Dan’s “Green Earrings” off The Royal Scam to fine effect.

The next album, 1997’s “The New You!“, is even better. Less constrained by tight funkiness and with better songs. Most songs start with an atmospheric intro then head in a different musical direction. Their lyrics still aren’t the best, but the songs have allusive phrases – “Season of the rich”, “This is supercrime and it happens all the time” (a song about trying to get a refund for a broken hi-fi!), “The hand the rocks the cradle rules the world,” “Tomorrow you will be a designosaur,” “Be an evolver!” etc. The instrumentals are good too, “Data 70” sounds like a 1970 caper movie soundtrack, ending with the same explosive riff as the Mission Impossible theme song, all bongos and horns wailing. In particular “Fisherman’s Wharf” is fantastic, a loving homage to Mike Post’s cop theme songs “Hill Street Blues” and “The Rockford Files.” It has police radio chat and sirens to start, seagulls near the beach, and even a faux NBC logo sound at the end. But it’s not kitsch, it’s just great.

The band returned after a 17-year break with the wonderful title “Return of the Fabric Four”, more of the same but not as magic.

So the one hit wasn’t just a flash in the pan. This makes me want to redouble my efforts to track down other B-sides and mystery artists, like Cooly’s Hot Box from another acid jazz compilation, Giant Steps Volume One, and the legendary Radio Arabesque.

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