Cope's neglected solo-debut album from 1984
Jason Parkes | Worcester, UK | 02/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cope's amusing-memoirs 'Head On/Repossessed' capture the period where The Teardrop Explodes imploded & Cope retreated to Tamworth for part-time hermitdom with wife Dorian. This is the place from where he dealt with the disintegration of both audience/band, the onslaught of epic acid-consumption & a focus on certain kinds of singers: Tim Buckley, Astral-Van, Nick Drake, Alexander'Skip'Spence & Syd Barrett (WSYM was recorded in Cambridge for that "Syd vibe"- while the cover alone for follow-up 'Fried' would get Julian labelled a "Syd."). Amid all this chaos Julian was on a fast-track to cultdom (admittidly by default) & produced this classic debut (which was slated by the UK music-press at the time- like Robert Smith, there seemed to be a notion that if you hadn't done an "Ian Curtis" you were a pseud...).
WSYM remains tight-pop-psychedelia, Cope playing with producer Stephen Lovell (lead guitar) & Teardrops-drummer (now forklift driver) Gary Dwyer (with the odd guest-apperance from Kate St John & ex-Teardrop Ronnie Francois). Like Nineties-classic 'Jehovahkill' the essential three-piece make-up of the band really seems to work here. Cope was in thrall to 'Nuggets'-style psychedlia and here makes a much more natural version of what XTC did with their Dukes of Stratosphear-project. Imagine an amphtetamine-driven Strawberry Alarm Clock, or The Modern Lovers original line-up if they relocated to Cambridge on a diet of Soft Machine...
This was before Cope explored his more cult/avant-sides (see Rite, Queen Mother, Brain Donor, Droolian)& he was still writing those killer english-pop-songs. & here there are eleven of them...'Bandy's First Jump', as Teardrops' single 'Passionate Friend' is about Cope's "relationship" with Ian McCulloch's sister (which contributed to their falling-out). Copey is almost embracing his self-destruction, "dancing on my fire-escape," then, "spinning around like a Catherine wheel/Put your head inside where I make my meal/Ready or not for a love-affair with an old coke-stove & a wheelchair"!!! A Teardrops-cast-off 'Metranil Vavin' (turned up on 1990-compilation 'Everybody Wants to Shag...')is much more 'White Album' here - drifting off into a piano-spacey ending where someone intones, "...oh that's nice!"
'Strasbourg' is another 2-min-plus pop-classic with some killer-lines ("If I were France and you were Germany, what an alliance that would be"!) & the chorus of choruses. Well that's until we get to the oboe-driven joys of 'An Elegant Chaos', which has that famous verse many took the...out of - it's easily up there with classic English-pop songs by The Kinks, XTC & Madness. Even better is one of my all-time fave Cope-songs, 'Quizmaster'- a fairground-ride on speed with odd lyrics like "Oh, I must have been murdered during the night- someone painted around me at dawn," Cope plumping for love & not being as self-immolating as some thought, "But when it comes time to reach out and give/I may be a corpse, but I know what I'm giving/So don't over-reach yourself unless you're prepared to fall down a mountainside of anger..."
WSYM turns bleak with 'Kolly Kibber's Birthday' (the title nods to the opening chapter of 'Brighton Rock'), which is driven by a Suicide-style drum-machine (minimal) & droning-post-punk guitars (with an odd Eastern-souding refrain). "My life is a delicate balance- the distance between town A and town B...smiling at such naivete...My heart's chemical incendiary's..."- imagine the Teardrops minus the horns and it's much darker: "My war is a Pyrrhic victory/My mind aghast tears like a circular saw/Crown Prince indifference comes marching in..." There are even nods back to melancholy centred around Liverpool and "Junior school." Single 'Sunshine Playroom' opts for some 'Smile'-style sounds as Cope delivers a gorgeous casio-driven pop-song - it sounds like Brian Wilson on ecstasy, "The sun in her hair/The sun in her eyes/There's something that makes me want to go back..." The mood shifts again, 'Head Hang Low' sounding like Joy Division playing a track by Caravan, or Soft Machine fronted by Scott Walker (Cope was still a Scott-head at this point):"all is lost in bright-confusion...You may sit alone like me, but please don't sit alone like me/My world's very beautiful today..."
The album drifts off into comic-psych-jazz with 'Pussyface', which is another older Teardrops-era song (known as 'Sex(Pussyface)'- it's the least track here, but kinda makes sense alongside psych of the era like The Cure's 'Dressing Up' or Siouxsie & the Banshees 'Swimming Horses.' Hit-single (in a perfect parallel-universe)'Greatness & Perfection' is up next and is easily up there with Cope's best pop-songs - e.g. Reward, Treason, Passionate Friend, Jellypop Perky Jean, I'm Not Losing Sleep, Trampolene. A campfire-devotional song with a killer-bridge ("and who are you to give my life so much meaning/I can't stand so much meaning/Hold my hand, cos I'm not healing- I need to find a way ahead...")Finally the album concludes on the English comedown 'Lunatic & Fire-Pistol', Cope's vocals drifting alongside his Robert Wyatt-style organ (think 'Rock Bottom')as Kate St John adds some pastoral-evoking oboe - finally the song shifts into a bleak psych-out meets post-punk movement...
WSYM and its companion 'Fried' (also 1984) standout in Cope's vast-canon; added to that it has great sleeve-photography from Anton Corbijn (Joy Division, Depeche Mode, U2) showing Julian in his Scottesque-phase! A highlight of the 1980s and one that people should know more...
D. Jones | Denton, Texas | 06/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The two most influential albums of my teenage years in the 80's were XTC's Black Sea and Julian Cope's World Shut Your Mouth. Though the lyrics don't make much sense to anyone (unless you're Julian Cope himself) they paint wonderfully chaotic pictures. And the music! You've never heard an album quite like this. ~Everyone~ (who has decent musical taste) that I have ever turned on to this record has absolutely loved it. Also, my favorite stanza from this record seems to get everybody else's attention too. Who could resist....People I see
just remind me of mooing like a cow in the grass
And that's not to say
That there's anything wrong with being a cow anyway
But people are people
With the added advantage of the spoken word
I'm getting on fine
But I feel more of a man when I get with the herd.-from Elegant Chaos"
William Wood | Sydney, New South Wales Australia | 12/30/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you enjoy a great pop song or simply enjoy the chase then this disc will provide you with satisfaction on both scores.
Cope seems to have admirers and detractors in equal number but let's not quibble about the mans talent, he is still out there attempting to produce Stonehenge from a pebble,one of rock's last great alchemists.This is certainly better than some of his output and deserves more attention."