or whatever reason, Julian Cope has long been marginalized; a rocker relegated to the Mainstream’s Bermuda Triangle; a “popist” acid casualty; a Spinal Tap’d knight protected by the ejaculation of serpents. Cope embraced his subterranean status and wove his warlockean neuromancy over the World Wide Web via Head Heritage; nib & inked tales of his heathen ancestors in The Modern Antiquarian, and continued to rake Rock’s exsanguinated corpse over the coals either alone or in the Technicolor company of the Sons T.C. Lethbridge, donating grey matter to Cock Rock’s bottomless coffers. Now comes Cope, bearing la petit mort—a massive collection of Rock Anthems, pugnacious politic, and Stonehenge-sized riffs, granite hard, high as the sky.
I vaguely remember Cope from way back when, as some sort of hair-gelled, neon clothed throwback, zooted to the gills, Spiritualized, video ready, preening and slinking as reptilian avatar; a Mr Mojo Risin landing a booth at the Rum Keg Pub for a few Vichy waters, a thimble of rattlesnake venom. Years later, I found he was tossing off narcotic rock writings; a testament to Edward Van Halen had me hooked; when his voice found place on Sunn O)))’s “My Wall,” I figured him a shaman, a plastic slacked François Villon able and willing to pin the priapic prick back on Rock’s sagging form. A tall order, as many have succumbed to the task, either swapping skin for a bag of bones, or sucked into the vortex of “price chopper’s” commercial megadeth.
To wit: The first LP bought with my own hard-earned money was Kiss’ Love Gun. Sure enough, it was culled from the “price chopper bin,” but still had taken five agonizing weeks to secure the funds. Weeks more were spent on fetishizing said LP; while mom shopped school clothes, I scurried off to the electronics aisle; behind a phalanx of turntables and eight-tracks were the LPs; nearly five full rows—dance, disco, rock, and vocal. Tiger Beat royalty occupied the most real estate: Queen Summer, Kings Cassidy and Garret. Coming across Kiss was like walking in on your parents shagging: Irrevocably wrong, and dark, yet unnaturally interesting. There it was—Love Gun. A quartet of Satan’s angels, garbed in black leather, velvet, and rubber standing tall above an orgiastic quicksand of geisha faced harlots—melon breasts, Crumb’d thighs, thickly pursed lips. Never mind the music; this looked deliciously illegal. Nearly a summer of raking leaves, cutting lawns, digging through the crevasses of the couch had finally given me the fistful of change I needed. The proud day culminating as the vinyl platter was laid onto the wheel of a plastic Land of the Lost player.
Inevitable confusion followed. This was music made by a tongue wagging, fire and blood spitting blasphemous brood? Not quite. But all of the brazen crotch rock was lost on my pre-adolescent mental apparatus. A few years later, a Penthouse pictorial transliterated the Kiss cover in even more lurid detail. Nothing left to nuance: a blood engorged “love gun” aimed at the chin of several depraved, glossy mouthed succubae. It registered: Paul Stanley was singing a three minute and fifteen second paean to his prick. For all of ma and pa’s superannuated talk about the Big Bopper, Beatles, Bill Haley, et al, I felt that I was truly hearing Rock for the first time. Real rock instances being few and far between, memento were carefully kept, dust free, breathing and beating. Hearing the MC5 in the back seat of a Dodge Dart at 15; seeing Van Halen rattle through “Unchained,” “Hot for Teacher,” and “The Cradle will Rock” in the midst of innumerable high school seniors sucking back musky buds and airline whiskey bottles; wrecking my dorm room in a Southern Comfort fueled frenzy while Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” scraped through blown Kenwood woofers—these were the glue of able musical growth.
All three of these events are salient coming-of-age shrapnel; all three bands still bring the gooseflesh, the air-guitar as man’s last recourse. Sadly, these instances have become nearly extinct; no one—much less two or three others—are willing to wrangle a double-necked axe, coo about cunt, or scream about the “state of things” while double-bass drums rumble behind a wall of guitarted fuzz. Then there’s Cope.
And Dark Orgasm, too. Not so much a “record” as it is a monolithic homage to Rock itself, Dark Orgasm quotes liberally—Stooges, Sir Lord Baltimore, Danzig, Doors, Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath are all aped, reshaped into Cope’s sound world, an undulating and wholly unstable locus that is as much about endless guitar wank as it is verbal posturing, mantra mouthed stadium shouted glossolalia. If there’s an embraced thematic, it’s liberation, as Cope’s lyrical content touches on the evils of religion’s herding power, Muslim women, environmentalism, and release—sexual, mental, physical. Then there’s oppression wearing liberation’s mask, as taken up in “Mr. Invasion,” a vitriolic one-finger salute to the “leader of the free world.” Both antipodal notions are delivered in Grand Funk graveyard whispers, more often with Lizard King lungs, rendering Ian Astbury’s verbal masquerade laughably otiose.
Sonic wise, Cope & Crew kill it dead: Drums as Bonzo buckets; Brontosaurian Butler bass lines, guitars glued from bits of Ronson, Farner, The Brothers Dambra. Cope is so clear about what this music consists of that it practically resists critique. Drain Sloe Gin and fuck to it; clean the cupboard bare on a THC binge; study, slurp soup, spin the exercise bike’s wheel to it. There used to be Rockers; there used to be Rock records. The genre has transmogrified into hip little pools of shibboleth-powered pose; volcanic guitar handjobs, Mitch Mitchell’d polyrhythmic dynamism, bass as Joycean Thunder Word has gone the way of the PMRC, parachute pants, the multi-zippered Michael Jackson jacket. Few fear to tread the terrain. There’s California’s Comets on Fire, New England’s Sunburned Hand of the Man, and—apparently—there was always Cope, too.
Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2006-01-03