IN THE SAME WAY THE LAZY DILUTED DOWN THE TEARDROP EXPLODES SO REWARD BECAME A PUNISHMENT, THIS ALBUM’S BIG HIT – WORLD SHUT YOUR MOUTH – BECAME JULIAN COPE’S SILENCER, FIXING HIM AS “THAT GUY ON TOP OF THE POPS WITH THAT WEIRD SCAFFOLDING MICROPHONE THING.”
The third solo outing after bursting the bubble on his band has generally been remembered as “the one with the hit”, and crucified for being glossy and commercial. Cut it down. The collective memory plays tricks…
Listening back to this double-disc deluxe edition of 1987’s SAINT JULIAN (released next week) reveals that though it certainly is sometimes vulgar, ridiculous and entirely lacking in subtlety, parts of it are an accelerator pumping, exhaust blasting, lit-match-into-gasoline incendiary thrill.
Wiping away the dribble and coming out of his fuck-you shell, sliding into tasteless fuck-me leathers and kick-starting a Detroit-retro two-car garage band that reverses over his own rule book, Cope foreshadows elements of what would follow.
There’s nothing here with the garret oddness of his previous album, 1984’s FRIED (though it’s similarly self-contained and cordoned off), there’s nothing with quite the Iggy-beats-up-Neu! fisting of HANGING OUT AND HUNG UP ON THE LINE (1991’s PEGGY SUICIDE), and nor is there anything with the scuzzy… erm… speed and dope mess-up of OUT OF MY MIND ON DOPE AND SPEED (1990’s DROOLIAN). At 26 years remove, SAINT JULIAN’s cheap sex with a shallow stranger in a neon-lit motel (all adjectives endlessly interchangeable) has it clearly signposted as an essential highway lay-by on the otherwise offroad route between those places.
Cope himself can, these days, only be drawn thus: “It has its moments”. And it does, but EVE’S VOLCANO (COVERED IN SIN) is not one of them: a warm boiled egg with the top whipped off rather than mountainous eruption and hot lava spurt. The weakest moment by some distance, its childish whirl is something even Rod, Jane & Freddy might have thought twice about it.
Brash and brattish WORLD SHUT YOUR MOUTH (presented in its original and Trouble Funk mixes) sounds like an absolute shoe-in for jack-booting the Top Ten into submission (it made number 19), but the songwriting highpoint is the hill-top horizon pop of the truly majestic TRAMPOLENE. Even typically mid-1980s inflated drums on the WARNE OUT! extended mix don’t devalue jewel-like guitars which glisten brightly throughout. SAINT JULIAN’s crowning moment is a sophisticated strain towards the four corners of the world on a taut leash.
There is also wink-at-the-camera humour – “I’ve got a spacehopper, baby, but it’s strictly one-seater” – with Cope utterly aware of his own gurning loon as he camps it up, savant-idiocy beautifully undermining the peacock feathers sprouting out of the back of his leather jacket. It’s here, on SPACEHOPPER (particularly its longer ANNEXE version), that he comes closest to the Krautrock-meets-Raw-Power balls-out perversion of his later years.
This, and a second disc containing b-sides (including versions of Pere Ubu’s NON-ALIGNMENT PACT and 13th Floor Elevators’ I’VE GOT LEVITATION) clearly show what was revving Cope’s engine in the moments before he slid on his shades, put his foot to the (fuzz) pedal and bounced off up the untrammelled path on his spacehopper, hair blowing heroically in the Hawkwind. Oh, the greatness, the daftness, of it all.