Julian Cope’s 29th album Revolutionary Suicide – a titular brother for “Revolution Blues” and “Revolutionary Man”, how lovely – was apparently wrapped up recording-wise on the day of Thatcher’s funeral. Presumably the erstwhile Teardrop Explodes focal point had planned to pop out to St Paul’s Cathedral and present the deceased with a copy.
Pfft…where to start with this magnum opus? For starters, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more engrossingly surreal yet pointed lyricist than Cope, and he’s on his tippermost toppermost form here.
So abundant are the great lines that Rocksucker feels compelled to present you with a compartmentalised rundown of some of our favourites, with musical descriptions in tow to (hopefully) stave off those “lazy journo” jibes:
“This state of war is not so unusual that we should expect peace in our time / And yet our phony so-called professionals are appeasing the suppressors of womankind / That picture of Neville Chamberlain with a paper that Hitler just signed / Why did that chicken cross my mind?” from the at once mournful, rousing and hilarious “Why Did the Chicken Cross My Mind”, which builds ornately into a drunken dance with a fizzing synth line…
…taking in, along the way: “Though I do protest I’m not a protestant / When I’m someone’s guest I’m never a feisty cunt / When I’m in a country where they worship the duck / I’m careful to never say duck worshippers suck”. Then it swells into some divine Love/Bacharach hybrid and ends on that note. Da-yum.
“Why’s she still smoking when she’s pregnant with my son / What’s all my vinyl doing upstairs?” from the amazing psych-pop odyssey of “Paradise Mislaid”, the title of which cements cements Half Man Half Biscuit relations along with the This Leaden Pall-y strum that starts off opening track “Hymn to the Odin” (more on that later).
“Now in conclusion to my story so clinical / Whenever cultures are achieving their pinnacle / It’s not a product of the smug and the cynical / It’s the ones on drugs” from “They Were on Hard Drugs”, which, while dafter than the daftest brush in all of daftdom with its squelchy synth, is a clenched fist in a velvet glove of fun (sorry if that sounded a little Alan Partridge).
Let’s go back to the sweetly folky, ‘spot of sunlight on the wall’ melodies of “Hymn to the Odin”; it accumulates crunchy guitar, thunderclaps and monotone keyboard notes until it transforms quite unexpectedly into something really quite tempestuous, and this is just the beginning of one heck of an odyssey.
“Why Did the Chicken Cross My Mind?” should be the national anthem, there we said it. If Tom Waits and Ray Davies stumbled into the machine out of The Fly then something like this might emerge from the other side. It’s damn near every kind of amazing.
The sixteen-minute “The Armenian Genocide”, the third of a three-track ‘side 1′, intertwines more spoken verse with deceptively simple choruses, deceptively insomuch as they’re repeated refrains in rounds of four but their melodies are intricately woven and oh so commandingly delivered. It’s a fearsome, lumbering giant of a song, albeit the intermediary lunatic’s poetry recital is perhaps not necessary.
“The Armenian Genocide” goes on to do so, so much that we could bang on about; instead, just take our word for it that it’s a gently berserk, colourfully proggy, time-travelling cause for astonishment. If you like the sound of “Can meets Beta Band”, this is the song for you.
A right old addled-sounding synth line wigs out spectacularly before the whole thing gently pounds itself into some kind of ultra-psychedelic, ultra-laid-back reimagining of acid house, punctuated by a crazed, sporadic chant of “people!”. Yes, we’re still talking about “The Armenian Genocide”.
Onto ‘side 2′ and “Mexican Revolution Blues” could almost have seen Cope have an ‘annoying noise’ hit on his hands if it weren’t way too good for that, not to mention the precursor to a barmy Hoedown. Julian Cope is the trippy man’s Dylan, and his preternatural powers bring about yet more claps of thunder on the “same old new order”-announcing “Russian Revolution Blues”.
“In His Cups” soars like The Flaming Lips over its swaggering groove, Cope ranting “Pronounce my name right!” like a sober-sounding Mark E. Smith amidst the gloriously floaty, most-un-Fall-like musical backdrop; finally, the eleven-minute “Destroy Religion” is spooky, hilarious, paranoid, epic, entrancing, crazed, marked by yet more thunderclaps…so many things.
It’s actually quite ridiculous how great Revolutionary Suicide is. At this stage of Julian Cope’s career, it is an especially monumental achievement.
Revolutionary Suicide is out now on Head Heritage.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!