By TIM CAIN - H&R Entertainment Editor
Julian Cope's music has always been on my radar, and sometimes he explodes in a spectacular way.
Cope led The Teardrop Explodes, but he broke through for me when he went solo and released the spectacular "World Shut Your Mouth," (This lip sync from "Top of the Pops" in 1986 is fun, and features Cope's really cool microphone stand.)
A few years later - in 1991 - his art connected solid with me again with "Peggy Suicide," which may be my favorite album title ever, mixing Buddy Holly and punk culture and rock's intention to shock. The music contained within included drones and chants, concept pieces about ecology and disenfranchisement, an anti-authority song featuring samples from a Lenny Bruce comedy routine, and most brilliantly, "Safesurfer," an epic 9-minute piece about potential AIDS proliferation and how to halt it. AND it mentions Donkey Kong.
It wasn't exactly "pop" music. Its presence at No. 6 on my year-end list only showed how great a year 1991 was.
And now, more than two decades later, another Cope album sprawling in scope has come into my life.
"Revolutionary Suicide" couldn't be much different than the momumental "Peggy Suicide," in spite of their names sharing a word. While the 1991 album worked in a variety of styles, all were safely rock and traditional pop-rock, and some blues. But little acoustic, and plenty of experimental. "Revolutionary Suicide" is really a D.I.Y. folk album, with Cope making matter-of-fact observations about a series of historical subjects.
"Folk" doesn't just mean acoustic guitars and Cope singing his pointed yet image-inducing lyrics. There's a wide assortment of 1980s-style simple synths providing color for the sounds. What Cope accomplishes is telling stories with simple and catchy choruses.
You may agree or disagree with Cope's take on events. You may or may not be amused by the singalong, almost Casio-styled "They Were on Hard Drugs." The message of "Destroy Religion" may make you prickly, or maybe the hypnotic drone at the end of the song will have the same effect. Maybe both.
I'm not certain where someone like Cope fits in with today's musical scene. He's definitely on the edges. His audience was never large enough for him to be a big deal, and he's not trying to remain relevant by chasing after new sounds. He's working within traditional frames, and saying what he wants to say.
He's also produced the most captivating album I've heard all year. This is my current selection for album of the year.