The Arch Drude we know as Julian Cope has been on a mighty journey the last decade or so, since getting rudely dumped by Island after delivering the mighty Jehovahkill (an LP that appeared in NME's Best British Albums of All Time a year or so ago!) he has followed a path to the underground. This journey has included several books (including the upcoming Japrocksampler), a TV show centred around The Modern Antiquarian, a great mail order service that developed into the brilliant Head Heritage website (with the particularly excellent Unsung section), side projects like Brain Donor, Queen Elizabeth and Rite, and hooking up with arcane noisy US types like Comets on Fire and Sunn O))).
It's quite a journey, though Copey's approach means that we have regular recordings that are very in the present tense, this means that there can be some stuff many consider chuff. Albums like Rome Wasn't Burned in a Day, Citizen Cain'ed, the Brain Donor singles compilation, & Dark Orgasm have that hit and miss quality, though those with more out there tastes will likely enough dig it all, or at least Cope's trip. I don't think Cope should try and be who he was, but sometimes amid an MC5-style thrash or Viking metal workout, you pine a bit for Julian Cope, the Pop Wizard. The man has penned so many rum pop chestnuts - Greatness & Perfection, Quizmaster, Sunspots, Strasbourg, Shot Down, Easter Everywhere, No Hard Shoulder, Try Try Try, Passionate Friend, Jellypop Perky Jean, Beautiful Love, Since I Lost My Head...etc - that it would be nice if he made some more. Clearly the trip Julian H Cope has been on hasn't seen him on major labels or remotely commercially driven, You Gotta Problem with Me signals a definite change. It's not Saint Julian or Kilimanjaro, or even Peggy Suicide, but it is released outside of Head Heritage on Invada (home to releases by Crippled Black Phoenix & Earth, Portishead's Geoff Barrow is one of those who runs it - hence the Cope, Crippled, Earth appearances at this year's Nightmare Before Christmas) - and I think this is Cope's most complete album since 1996's Interpreter. This feels like a succesor to the era on Echo in the 1990s, from Autogeddon to Interpreter - a whole new phase begins?
Cope has been folk (with an Umlaut) for several years now, and much of You Gotta Problem With Me (no question mark) is very present tense - Cope returns to some themes of yore as well as now. Problem's primary theme appears to be an aversion to major religions, making it The God Delusion of albums! Cope touches on the old character of Peggy Suicide, Ye Olde Britain, dodgy old bands who reform, Rome, Womanhood, the Middle East, the War on Terror/Iraq War, corporate greed (remember Greedhead Detector?), and other themes apparent in the 16 page booklet (Israel/Palestine, Walls, Cerrig-Y-Drudion, Stone Circles etc.
Cope didn't sound much like Cope on his collaboration with Sunn O))), 'My Wall' - there he sounded like Ivor Cutler at the end of Time and Space, and here he sounds a bit unlike himself. His Iggy-style vocal from yore and Brain Donor surfaces on a few tracks - notably the pulsing space rock of the title track and the Iraq lament 'Can't Get You Out of My Country' - while he slips from spoken word to comedy on 'Soon to Forget You', while sounding slightly different and more folk (with an umlaut) on disc one's opener 'Doctor Know.' Problem is an album that just seems to get better with each play, and now several times familiar, it seems pretty darn great!
'Beyond Rome' has some lovely spaced out Mellotron/Korg sounds (Cope's recent tour saw him do great versions of 'The Great Dominions' and 'Land of Fear' with it), the title track is like Iggy & the Super Furry Animals, while 'They Gotta Different Way of Doing Things' seems provoked by Cope's travels to the Middle East for a book in the pipeline. It socks it to a certain Fundamentelist mindset, the kind of song that makes me glad I'm hear in the West, and that I really should read The Satanic Verses (because I can). Saudia Arabia gets a deserved kicking, which is good since that state gets away with an awful lot due to business and political links to the UK and US...er, sorry, wrong meeting. Visit Head Heritage's Village Pump for more chatter of this nature...The guitar is superb and glam (from the great Doggen of Brain Donor, Cope's live rocking band & Spiritualized) and there's an odd synth noise like The RZA's refrain in the first Kill Bill theme...& Peggy Suicide, who was missing, returns on disc one's closer 'Peggy Suicide is a Junkie'. Oh yes..
'A Child is Born on Cerrig-Y-Drudion' is quite charming, a gentle moog/folk song that recalls 1990's Droolian LP, leading towards the greatest song on the album, the 4 minutes 51 seconds of perfection that is 'Woden.' Track two, disc two is fantastic, stunning acoustic guitar (from the great Donald Ross Skinner, a key sidekick to the Copemeister) and an emotional ode to Woden, it sounds like Richard Thompson would after getting 'on one' on a Ley Line. 'Sick Love' is almost jazzy, sounding like late period Talk Talk without any musicianship or cosmetic sounds - Doggen's guitar solo is great too. After a few days of having this LP, I haven't yet put my finger on the 60s track that 'Can't Get You Out of My Country' invokes - Jefferson Airplane? Moby Grape? Creedence? Oh, it'll come to me - a bit like that recent Fall song that "borrowed" a riff from the United States of America...
'Vampire State Building' is a bit of an odd one, dictated by a riff and what sounds like a drum machine; the drum machine sticks around for 'Hidden Doorways', which is kind of catchy and a little space-dubby - these are pop songs. & the LP goes out with the mighty 'Shame Shame Shame', which is number one in the universe I reside in - an acoustic Cope probably doesn't scare as many as the version of Cope in Brain Donor mode, though really, there is nothing to fear! You Gotta Problem With Me is more greatness from the Arch Drude and an album that deserves an audience wider than his devoted following. One of my favourite albums of 2007 already, and maybe my fave?