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Julian Cope: Reissues

The arch druid’s first forays as a solo artist, with B-sides and John Peel sessions.

Julian Cope couldn’t seem to please anyone in the early 80s. The Teardrop Explodes had dissolved amid a welter of recriminations and the music press dismissed Cope as a gobby eccentric whose LSD intake had started to hamper his judgement.

The knives were certainly out for 1984 debut World Shut Your Mouth (610), which carried some of the Teardrops’ psych-pop bounce, but was somewhat disjointed. Choicest moment was Head Hang Low, a crestfallen ballad in the style of the Teardrops’ Tiny Children.

It was slated by the weeklies – one scribe even suggested Cope should give it up completely. But while no amount of revisionism can claim it to be a lost classic, World… is far better than the critical consensus would have you believe.

Cope pressed on regardless, pouring his energies into Fried (710), issued later that year. Better known for its bonkers sleeve (a naked Cope kneeling beside a toy truck while wearing a giant turtle shell), it’s a muted, minor-chord work with some genuinely lovely touches. Sunspots and O King Of Chaos are great, though the standout is Reynard The Fox, which bolts the riff from Them’s I Can Only Give You Everything onto the bones of a John Masefield poem to create an allusive mini-epic.

Alas, Fried sold even less than its predecessor and Cope was duly released by Mercury. It would be another seven years before he found his true métier with the magnificently wilful Peggy Suicide, but these two unfairly-maligned albums can now be seen as screwy prototypes.