Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Jukebox Juicebox #6

Julian Cope “Citizen Cain’d” / “Dark Orgasm”
The Arch Drude was a busy man in 2005, releasing two albums at either end of the year. For those with long memories, it’s been a long and difficult road for Julian Cope. Success in the early 1980s with The Teardrop Explodes was repeated later that decade with his rock ‘n’ roll epic “Saint Julian”. At the beginning of the 1990s, critical – and some commercial – success was repeated with his magnum opus “Peggy Suicide”. However, his major label death knell was sounded with the equally ambitious “Jehovahkill”. In my opinion, this is one of his strongest collections, thankfully soon to be re-released (and hopefully re-appraised). Sadly, Island Records - and the record-buying public – disagreed; Cope was ditched and set up his Head Heritage label. An equally unsatisfying deal with Echo aside, Cope has continued to self-release material. In the past decade, this has meant wildly variable releases, both in terms of content and quality. Gone perhaps are the heady melodies of “Sunspots”, “China Doll” and “Beautiful Love”, replaced by Stooges/Krautrock-influenced, balls-shuddering wig-outs, but Cope is still capable of moments of genius. The brace of albums this year mark a continuation of his return to form, likely strengthened by Cope’s reinvigorating live performances. I picked up “Citizen Cain’d” at his gig at Bristol’s Fleece & Firkin in February 2005 and the album undoubtedly benefited from it’s live premiere. Both albums are split across two CDs, despite total running times of seventy and forty-eight minutes respectively, but the reasons for each soon become clear. “Citizen Cain’d” kicks off in grand rock fashion with “Hell Is Wicked” and “I Can’t Hardly Stand It”. As well as the anti-organised religion stance of the openers, Cope touches on familiar themes of war in “I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In” and “World War Pigs”, as well as the apathy of the masses in “Stomping Dionysus” and “The Living Dead”. The latter paints a particularly bleak but recognisable picture of a society ‘where reality telly (has) replaced conversation’ whilst, in the Middle East, ‘the soon-to-be-fried’ are also ‘the refuse-to-be-denied’. A common theme – those who have a good quality of life not appreciating the value of living – but well told within this song. With three songs at or above the ten-minute mark, spreading the twelve tracks over two CDs is a wise move and makes for a satisfying listen in two sittings. “Dark Orgasm” approaches this in much the same way: the first CD contains seven songs and spans twenty-seven minutes; the second – “The Death And Resurrection Show” - is a twenty-one minute jam with seemingly ad-libbed vocals, followed by a thirty-second reprise of the intro. Opening track “Zoroaster” is musically reminiscent of 1992’s “Know (Cut My Friends Down)”. Like that song’s parent album, “Jehovahkill”, “Dark Orgasm” is dedicated to the feminist cause. This is readily apparent in tracks like “White Bitch Comes Good”, “I’ve Found A New Way To Love Her” and “She’s Got A Ring On Her Finger… (& Another One Through Her Nose)”, particularly in the latter’s scathing line ‘What you believe in’s got your old man walking ten feet tall / Meanwhile, you’re skulking in the shadows like a fucking vegetable’. Returning to the anti-war themes explored in “Citizen Cain’d”, George Dubya gets another deserved kicking in “Mr. Invasion” (‘Fanning the flames that your daddy has started’). CD2’s “The Death And Resurrection Show” won’t engage new listeners or Cope fans who prefer his snappy pop/rock output to his more freeform (and often extremely self-indulgent) moments. Loose though it all sounds, somehow Cope and his band keep things together, the stream-of-consciousness lyrics and frequent tempo changes making sense as a greater whole. Neither of 2005’s albums will necessarily be a good starting point for the uninitiated, or those who gave up on Julian Cope after “Jehovahkill”. Yet, they’re proof that the Arch Drude hasn’t lost his muse, his passion for life, his desire to confront hypocrisy and injustice, or his ability to produce a coherent body of work that you can simply play loud as hell. Go to to find out more or buy the albums. Better still, try to catch Cope live on his forthcoming UK tour.