Having conquered the pop charts in the 1980s with both the post-punk outfit The Teardrop Explodes and with more accessible solo numbers like World Shut Your Mouth, Julian Cope opted for the path less travelled in the 1990s. Temporarily hanging up his guitar, he found solace in the ancient and he turned his attention instead to becoming one of the world's foremost authorities on the neolithic stone circles of the British Isles.
This detour into prehistoric academia has seemingly influenced the later musical output of Cope, who has re-emerged in recent years as a raggedy space-shaman of a man. He has collaborated with several noteworthy fellow travellers of the space-cadet superhighway, including producer Mitch Razor and Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))), on his thunderous - and criminally overlooked - Brain Donor album Wasted Fuzz Excessive.
Now, for his latest opus he has taken on the role of "Voice of the Disenfranchised" on behalf of the silenced majority in our collapsing modern life.
Psychedelic Revolution is the culmination of Cope's long and meandering journey into the present day. It is the meeting point between his head-in-the-clouds psychedelia and the polemical anti-everythingisms of his punk rock heritage.
The double album is in turns tatty, sentimental, folksy, lugubrious, comical and bile-drenched in fury. Kicking off with Raving on the Moor, Cope creates for himself a Byronic hero who we find fleeing from a society of oppressive banksters and crony capitalists. Leaving it all behind, our man is seeking a romantic anarchy amidst the rain-lashed heathland of a forgotten England.
Out here, his anger builds to a musical crescendo, and our tortured narrator invokes the listener into direct action against the corrupt technocrats and puppet-masters who run the show.
We get our first glimpse into the soul of the album as Cope puts a scuffed Doc Martin boot straight through the fourth wall. Are we listening to our fictional hero, or to the guy sitting at the mixing desk contemplating his career of inciting acts of musical treason?
And I stopped playing to the choir / Start playing to the head. I stopped fighting the police / Let the lackeys die in bed. I stopped aiming at their feet / Started aiming at the Greed-heads. And maybe this could work for you And maybe this could work for you And maybe this could work for you too.
About the album, Cope has said that he created an almost comical caricature for himself to voice his more outré views, so take that for what you will. But the same anti-establishment figure seems to resurface next - disguised in a burka - during the jaunty Revolutionary Man. Now we find him on the streets of London town, suffering police brutality as he runs through the City "to smash the banking scum".
Dissidence and heroism are interchangeable terms throughout this record, and Psychedelic Revolution is a double barrel of barefaced agitprop of the highest calibre. There is more swaggering defiance in this recording than anything you will have heard in the last decade from musicians half this guy's age.
But for all of the anger directed at The Man and the seething resentment towards the status quo, there are tender moments too. Because how else can you make a convincing call to arms unless you show the audience what they will be fighting to save?
Hooded and Benign is a gentle hymn to the sacrificial bravery of those who are captured railing against the injustice. Viva La Suicide is a scathing satire on behalf of the lost youth of a radicalised Arab world. Cromwell in Ireland takes in a half-millennium of imperialist brutality and spits it out like a drunken pub sing-along recorded onto shellac during the inter-war years.
As the Beer Flows Over Me is a solemn funeral dirge for a neo-Viking burial, sung from beyond the grave. In Cope's world, death is not an end; nor is it to be feared. Only kept and held onto and celebrated:
Drink a toast now my life's over / (As the beer flows over me) Do not leave my party sober / (As the beer flows over me)
Cope strums and wails and buzzes through the 2 CDs of the album. The DIY ethic makes the guitar strings rattle, the vocals pop and the mix uneven. It all has an effortless, authentically vintage feel to it that would cause many aspiring retro-rockers to eat their own fists in envy.
The folk and the space age intertwine with sublime elegance. Pagan strings are plucked, fretboards squeak and analogue synths are twiddled and prodded and coaxed into emitting all kinds of juicy parps and serrated-edged warbles. The result is rustic, anti-modern, folksy in its intimacy and its shambolic production, and utterly, utterly heartfelt. You could go online today and find a digital tsunami of musicians who are comfortable baring their souls in directionless self-reflection, bemoaning their broken hearts. But not one of them has the passion nor the conviction to raise a voice as sincere or as self-aware as Julian Cope's in this collection of 21st century protest songs.
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