Julian Cope – Dark Orgasm

Just like Ken Bigley,
I’m losing my head
On account of you.

Hmmm. I wondered why there wasn’t a Liverpool gig as part of the forthcoming tour. Of course in anyone at Cope-central had any sense they’d be writing letters of disgust at that lyric to the Echo. Get a bit of controversy going.

Dark Orgasm is Julian Cope’s second ‘double’ album in the space of one year. And, like the last it’s a double only in packaging. This would all fit easily on the one CD. The packaging is festooned with the legend ‘Fuck the Pope’ and sleeved with iron crosses. While I have no problem with the former, the latter is un-nerving. Along with Cope’s current adoption of a panzer tank commander’s hat as the headgear of choice, it signals as slightly worrying acceptance of certain regalia. At his RFH gig in January, we let this pass due to the armbands displaying the logo used by Charlie Chaplin in the Great dictator. However, with the unambiguous cross, are we looking at a man so lost in rock n’ roll mythology that Hell’s Angels and Lemmy are above reproach?

DO still finds Cope on his on the 70’s rock bent. Albeit this time without the willfully bad/authentic production than dogged Citizen Cain’d. With the result of this being a considerably more accessible work.

It opens with a near direct lift of the riff to BauhausBela Lugosi’s Dead (replete with spooky sound effects) – and, to be honest, I wish I hadn’t had this pointed out to me – in Zoroaster. And, he wastes no time in setting out his stall for the anti-religion/pro-feminist themes on display here. (So, retreading many similar themes for Cope.)

The cod-rock thing reaches it’s peak (zenith?) in Nothing To Lose Except My Mind which is swathed in canned audience noise for some reason. Again there’s something familiar about it. At first I think it’s Spinal Tap, and even suspect this might be by design. However, it eventually dawns on me that it’s another comedy rock act that it’s channeling; Jack Black‘s Tenacious D. So, is this what humanity has come to? Is the twenty-first century going to be the age of meta-irony?

I’ve Found A New Way To Love Her, boasts the lyric from the top there. In context it has a certain sense, it’s just as clumsy as in isolation, though. The losing the plot message is tied to Cat Stephens too, suggesting that the ‘you’ in question is islamic extremist interpretation of the Koran. The song itself is an ironic subjugation or women under this interpretation. The message being enough of this decadent hand-holding nonsense, stick this burka on, dear. I’ve found a new way… A wrong way, obviously.

He’s done this kind of thing much better, many times before. And, not just as Brain Donor (in fact you could say the same about them). To be honest, on here the vocals are rubbish. Deliberately growled and squealed in a completely artificial manner. Cope can carry of a myriad of vocal styles, why he wants to limit himself to strangulated metal which he can’t really pull off makes no real sense.

First phase or this finishes with I Don’t Wanna Grow Back which at first is welcome because at least he sounds like Cope on it. A couple of listens reveal the verse of Drive She Said recycled with what I’m sure is the chorus of something else I can’t quite place. Although, the latter may just be Cope by numbers. Either way, these days, it’s quite refreshingly familiar. But very far from great.

And, then to the 21 minute epic that is The Death & Resurrection Show. Approached with trepidation and fear of the worlds longest guitar wank-off. Surprisingly, in amongst the inevitable, there are some great passages of the pop genius we know and love. In fact there are some really good bits in there. But the whole thing is just so bitty. Sketchy (but not in the good way that the Skellington Chronicles were). Unconvincing. It just doesn’t hang together. DO, was originally billed as going to be a death metal opera, I can’t help think that this is the original attempt at that, later dumped as too dull to bother finishing.

So, again, not a classic. Not even the best of his latest metal opuses. There’s nothing on here that could stand up to pretty much most of his back catalogue. Worse than that, there isn’t even anything that has the class or adventurousness of I Will Be Absorbed from Cain’d.

Whenever some grandee takes a radical move stylistically it’s usually the done thing to point out that many a young whippersnapper could learn a lesson from it. Well, to be honest it’s the opposite here. There is more inventiveness in any half hour of MTV2 than there is here . It’s not necessarily any better (in fact fairly definitely not), but at least there’ll be attempts to break something approaching new ground. JC is hurtling towards fifty and is more and more desperately trying to cover his baldness (see Panzer tank hat above). Maybe his recent work is the equivalent of buying a motorbike and dating a 19 year-old if you are a singular musical talent. Maybe not, though.


Written by Tony Kiernan

10 December 2005 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Records

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