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Battle ye not With Monsters
on 2 February 2010
Julian Cope is a true genius of post punk England, he is also one of its oddest and contrived characters. In the late 70s Julian attended University in Liverpool it was there he meet a number of like minded students riding the creative wave of the Liverpool post punk/new wave movement. Even then Julian was said to be difficult, even dictatorial and incredibly hard to work with.
After the implosion of the Teardrop Explodes Julian spent 1983 recording his wonderful debut record, 'World Shut Your Mouth' a mixture of orchestral pop and psychedelic meanderings. He spent 1984 tripping and locked inside in a room playing with his toy car collection before unleashing 'Fried'. Many critics go with 'Fried' as the best of the two. Julian then got his act together and detoxed prior to the release of 'Saint Julian' in 1986, which was the rock'n'roll response every one was hoping and waiting for and it really delivers. The lead singles 'World Shut Your Mouth' and 'Trampoline' were both top 20 hits in the UK and abroad
Disaster was around the corner however in the form of the upcoming record, 'My Nation Underground'. Cope claimed that management had forced him to record something that didn't represent his artistic intentions. It is a disappointing record. This should have been the record that capitalised on the momentum of 'St Julian' both in commercial and artistic terms. I don't know whether this was by fault or design but people fault this album for being too poppy or mainstream or whatever, but if like me you don't mind poppy or mainstream, it's not a bad album at all. In fact, there are several very good songs on here, but it's not really representative of Mr Cope and you don't feel spiritually connected to the music. The lyrics and word play are interesting on Charlotte Ann and the beautiful Love song embodied on China Doll sees Cope exposed down to the veneer. Perhaps this is what really threatened Cope.
Cope approached this album in is own unique inimitable manner but by the end of recording, he was on the verge of disowning. Inspired moments aside, one can understand why: My Nation Underground has just about everything going for it except for Cope's own vision. The high points that are here are actually quite fine, though he still professes to this day to hate the results. Most of the time, though, Cope, Skinner, DeHarrison (Cope Alias), and company sound like they're fulfilling a record company brief to make a saleable commercial alternative album, late-'80s style. The production touches tended towards the anonymously clichéd, making it more consistent throughout. But its does lack identity and does not convincingly portray the personality of either Cope or his band. The title track Charlotte Anne is a good example of something which should be right going terribly wrong the squelchy synths and arrangement almost drown Cope's idiosyncratic lyric, while the backing chorus sounds unfortunately like the type of pseudo-funky thing to be expected from his 60's (Pebbles) contemporaneous..
Critical views generally support this view. The accompany video for China Doll had a cameo appearance from Pete Louis Vincent de Freitas (2 August 1961-14 June 1989) the drummer with Echo & the Bunnymen who sadly died in a motor bike accident shortly after completion of the shoot.
This was Julian Copes last attempt at being a Pop Star and the last time any corporate record company wanted to touch him. The next phase of Julian Cope was to create a new fan base and leaving most of his original fans bewildered. Perhaps this was his intention all the time.