Review: David Swift, NME Mar 1991

Once, you’d just colour him “gone”. But now, Copey’s gone green for the 1990’s with a rich double album which consistently elucidates and hallucinates on one subject: Our Planet, babe.

Island’s alleged plan to boot him off the label because the hits had stopped and he was – surely not? – weirding out on them, has not come to pass and there should be satisfied smiles all around, especially with ‘Beautiful Love’ hitbound, giving the ol’ psychedelic leather lizard with the golden throat an amazing third chart life.

Even after the too-nutzo ‘Droolian’ project (self-financed) last year, it did not pay to write him off, and ‘Peggy Suicide’ finds his commercial touch lining up alongside some kinda environmental/politico brainstorm.

‘Peggy’ herself is Mother Earth; Cope’s summation is that she is about to leap off the cliff ‘cos of the greenhouse effect, the evil Goddess Pollution, and a whacking great poll tax in Lambeth. These matters are expounded upon with funk and flair; to give him credit, he may now wear the mask of the right on, but would never cloak his music in their drab colours.

Seemingly enjoying the freedom of a double album, he’s pulled some of this best mates metaphors (‘Easy Easy rider’. ‘Safe Surfer’, ‘Soldier Blue’) out of his bag, and se them to typically addictive soundtracks.

One sound looms above all – WAH-WAH. His well-documented love of Sly ‘n’ Funkadelic is on show throughout, especially on ‘Easy Easy Rider’, a superfly throwdown of the Wattstax sound. Cool, Julian.

The ubiquitous acid-punker stomp is here again, called ‘Hanging Out And Hung Up On the Line’, and recorded in distinctly lower-fi than the rest. It has the purist’s stamp, as you’d expect.

There are milder choices for more hits, but go down a gear or three more and find Cope at his strength – the sparse and plaintive ballads, which he perfected as long ago as 1981 (‘Use Me’). ‘If You Love Me At All’ and ‘The Lite American’ swing gently. He still has that touch, and the arrangements are pristine.

There’s too much here for even a hardened Copeophile to assess fully, so soon. But I figure at least a quarter is classic, and only one sounds like a Vanilla fudge filler.

He sighs “I was born to entertain so here I go” on Side Four, naturally. As any major dude will tell you, Julian Cope rarely delivers anything else.