Few artists can claim to have ploughed such a rich and bizarre furrow as Julian Cope. From scouse-pop Smash Hits pin-up, calling at Scott walker acid casualty, via stone(d) circle antiquarian, Krautrock stoner rocker, and ending up as some kind of grizzled shamanic Norse god biker Jim Morrison. His various guises have oft confounded loyal listeners, demanding an indulgence sometimes hard to muster.
This latest mini-album sees him return to his accessible and fertile 80s/90s period, which spawned ‘Fried’ (that indelible image of him dressed only in a turtle-shell, beyond wasted, crawling in the dirt after a toy truck – “Wanna be a pop star kids? This is where it leads”), ’20 Mothers’ and ‘Interpreter’. All records that had a carefree eclecticism that could veer from folk to psychedelia to rock-out at any moment.
Album opener ‘Drink Me Under the Table’ could sit comfortably on any of those albums, and even has a tinge of Teardrops posh choirboy vocal. ‘Liver Big as Hartlepool’ is a nostalgic reverie of his time amongst the Liverpudlians, where he managed to be totally out of place yet fit right in, and how great to hear a song that name-checks Haydock, Warrington, woolybacks and the East Lancs road.
The accolade to alcohol theme continues with ‘As the Beer Flows Over Me’, an acoustic anthem of fermented and majestic sincerity, that lesser mortals and soft-drink sippers could only dream of creating.
The album drifts off a little into whimsical folk-song surreal-ness with ‘Clonakilty as Charged’, then revisits ‘Autogeddon’ territory, but the sozzled version, with ‘Don’t Drink and Drive (You Might Spill Some)’
With this album it’s clear that Mr Cope is enjoying himself again, and this is evidenced on the closing track ‘The Road to Tralee’, an eighteen minute booze-drenched epic, that goes to places that only he would dare to. The endless bus journey saga trundles along through whiffs of Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast, Wicker Man, Oliver Postgate, and Jake Thackery. Half narrated toothless road-movie and half acid-spiked stout odyssey. It’s Cope at his godlike heroic wasted eccentric best.
Welcome back Saint Julian, we’ve missed you.