Julian Cope
Live Japan '91


eird scamp Julian Cope: genius, or lazy bum? Not quite one of those questions justifiably dubbed as eternal (“what’s that band Louise Nurding used to be in?” for example), but a mildly engaging thought nonetheless. A gloriously inconsistent bridge of work touches the banks of Teardrop Explodekstan and Spoken-word-dronefestania, whilst a river of frustrated listeners take it in turns to wallow underneath like underfunded trolls—and he probably does it all on purpose too. The cad. If only there were some way in which highlights from an unusually solid album could be combined with a handful of ingenious hits ...

So, Japan ‘91 eh?

Available only through Cope’s own website and supposedly a shiny new replacement for some manky bootleg or other, it features large swathes of the unusually solid Peggy Suicide album interspersed with a number of ... well, you know. They’ve even left some hilarious bootleg misspellings and track errors on the cover, the wags. Fine work, however, has been done with the audio—leaving the all important yelling-and-noises parts sounding as clear as an artificially created sky dubiously engineered by futuristic scientists at the boundaries of acceptable legality. A handy shrunken auditorium, then, for Donald Ross Skinner's aggressive guitar mashing and Saint Julian’s unique thoughts on sex, drugs, and Bill Drummond.

There’s a penchant here for stretching certain songs to the outer reaches of healthiness, but nothing tends to flop over into deadly jam session mode. Cope’s bizarre charisma carries everything unstoppably forward, so in the end you simply forget to realise that the past four minutes of “Sleeping Gas” have just been semi-coherent rantings. Noodle-fanciers can also marvel at the super extended version of “East Easy Rider”; but even amidst such frenetic excess there lurk hooks eternal—perpetually hanging around in the background like the poorly animated bystanders in an arcade beat-em-up classic of your choice. The indefinable pop touch is unshakeable.

Indeed, it’s hardly a surprise when “Sunspots” gaily skips and hops through freshly mown meadows, cupping an ear to listen as light aircraft buzz gently overhead and tossing out flowers to any potential mellow-harshers it chances upon. And even less so when “Beautiful Love” rolls out its addictive bittersweet romance. With the bonus bombast of “World Shut Your Mouth” as a closer, you can’t help but feel left awash with positive vibes; slopping around all over the place like rent-a-hippy in a can. It’s an upbeat groove spectacular!

Perhaps most pleasing of all, there isn’t anything which feels disposably skippable. Based on past experience, it could be the first time I’ve encountered that in a Cope record since Kilimanjaro. Sure, you could probably rename this Peggy and the Hits—-but is that really so awful? Where energetic drude action abounds, the spiritual jury can lean only towards “genius.”

Reviewed by: Peter Parrish

Reviewed on: 2005-02-02

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