Julian Cope has spent the last 3 decades worked his way up to legendary status, partially through his superbly curated Krautrock and Japrock comps, his authoritive books on the same topics, and his varied and prolific musical output, and partially because he’s an acid gobbling druid maniac who seems to be a genuinely excellent human being.
Having enjoyed Cope’s garage punk/ sludge metal output of the last decade as Brain Donor, and being a fan of his Teardrop Explodes early days, I looked forward to checking out this reissue of Saint Julian, his third solo album and his first for Island Records. Attempting to shift his image as a drug addled fuck-up, this was Cope embracing his inner rock God. Released in 1986, it holds his only top 20 hit, the Talking Heads-esque stomp of World Shut Your Mouth, a boisterous shout along that sounds great to this day.
Unfortunately the album itself, even to these sympathetic ears, sounds horribly dated. It’s a stark reminder of all the crappest parts of 80s, with few of the decent bits to sweeten the pill. The producers appear to be in thrall to Phil Collins’ gated reverb drum sounds, too often creating a tinny mess. Promising guitars jangles are undermined by Tonka Toy synth bass and nasty compression is everywhere. There are missteps all over the shop, from the white boy funk of Planet Ride sounding like INXS without the XS, to the breezy potential of Eve’s Volcano being screwed by cheap and nasty samples.
It’s a shame that this leaves the high points thoroughly undermined. The aforementioned World Shut Your Mouth stands out like a sudden blessing, whilst fourth track Spacehopper thrashes along in pure style, adding chiming indie guitars to Ramones dumb melody to great effect – although it turns out that that track was originally written back in the late 70s.. Album closer Crack In The Clouds reaches for the ethereal, and nearly, nearly gets there. However it’s portentous intro, sprawling structure and waltzing synths are let down at the last by Cope’s voice simply not convincing.
The second CD is more of the same, consisting of remixes and B Sides. It opens with the ace, full throated John Lennon pastiche I’ve Got Levitation, and things look good. Swiftly though we’re back in the world of half arsed tracks and dodgy production, with no further gems surfacing. He can, and has done better.
Fans familiar with Saint Julian from the first time round will probably relish this reissue, if only for Cope’s sleeve notes. For this reviewer, however this has proved a mixed bag that largely deals out disappointments. 5/10