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Recording:
  Black Sheep  
 
Artist:
  Julian Cope  
 
Label:
  Head Heritage  
 
Release Date:
  8.September.2008  
 
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  
         
 
Rating:
   
         
 
Review:
 

I was going to start this review by saying that although Julian Cope albums will always have their highlights I didn't think that he'd ever make a bona fide classic LP again. I was going to point out that Black Sheep is another in an increasingly long line of records that showed that although Cope could still come up with any number of great ideas, for whatever reason he now lacked the application to concentrate enough on one project to fully realise it. I would have, of course, pointed out that this was not a totally bad thing despite finding Cope's latter-day career somewhat frustrating personally, I think it's all the more interesting for shoving out lots of interesting (if flawed) records rather than just releasing one full-on classic every five years.

While not quite a full-on classic itself, however, Black Sheep has slowly revealed itself to be the finest album he's released in some time. The opening track, the acoustic stomp that is Come The Revolution, sets the tone immediately. It's a really rousing number that benefits from some nice tinny Teardrops keyboards in the background, and it's got such a swagger that, when I played it on my iPod the other day, I found it hard not to walk in time to it, leaving me concerned that any neighbours who saw me leaving the house might be afraid that I've suddenly developed a Clint Eastwood fixation.

It's Too Late To Turn Back Now follows and, although it opens with a Sunspots-like riff, it's the one track here that sounds like the rockier, looser sound of recent years. Indeed, with Julian's shouty vocals and the I Wanna Be Your Dog one note piano, it would be perfectly at home on disc one of Citizen Cain'd. These Things I Know, meanwhile, might have the Battle Of Evermore mandolin type sound Julian first used on his last album, You Gotta Problem With Me, but the song itself would have fitted neatly on Fried, his classic 1984 LP. Whilst they're both very decent tracks, Psychedelic Odin is even better, a great poppy number with a jaunty beat and pumping Waterfront bass that is only slightly let down by Cope's admittedly entertaining tongue-in-cheek rant towards the end.

Like Cope's last few albums, Black Sheep is divided onto two discs, even though it would undoubtedly fit on one, and disc one ends with Blood Sacrifice and The Shipwreck Of St Paul. Both of these find Cope reverting to the oddball maverick of yore rather than the rock god wannabe of more recent times, bringing to mind those glorious 80s b-sides like Christ Vs Warhol and Warwick The Kingmaker. This is how I like my Julian!

Disc two opens with the splendidly titled and absurdly catchy All The Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers (Will Realise The Minute They Die That They Were Suckers) which features a woodwind riff that brings to mind Manfred Mann's 1969 smash My Name Is Jack. In an alternative reality, this would be a monster hit because it really is hard not to find yourself singing along. But, as Julian would probably find himself subject of a fatwa if this was brought to a wider audience, it's perhaps best that it remains here in relative obscurity.

Feed My Rock'n'Roll follows and is the one track on Black Sheep that doesn't quite cut it for me. Sure it's catchy and there's a typically Julian-esque charm about it, but I can't help thinking that if this was released by anyone else I'd be decrying it as, well, a bit naff. Bizarrely the melody brings to mind Benny Hill's 1971 novelty hit, Ernie to such a degree that I half expect Julian to start telling us about "Two Ton Ted from Teddington" any minute rather than singing about "heathen rock'n'roll" and making Jesus the subject of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order.

Dhimmi Is Blue soon gets us back on track and is another odd ball b-side type that is allowed plenty of time to breathe over some eight minutes. With its relentlessly hammered piano chords, this is definitely in Christ Vs Warhol country. The Black Sheep Song follows with its pretty intro and suitably pastoral feel. Julian's use of some "ba ba ba's" has never sounded so appropriate either!

Black Sheep ends with the lengthy I Can Remember This Life, another number that is given ample room to breathe. Dissenters could argue that it doesn't really need a two and a half minute intro nor does it really need to last over eleven minutes, but I think it's fabulous. Detractors could also point out that the bass riff is rather ripped off Joy Division's classic Decades, but what the hell. If you're gonna nick an idea, then nick the best!

By dwelling on comparisons with Julian's old material here I might be giving the impression that Julian, the self-proclaimed forward thinking motherfucker, is just looking backwards, but that would be only half the story. This is Julian getting back to doing what he does best being Julian Cope, and it's good to hear him drawing on his own glorious past for his template rather than going off on another less fitting pre-punk rock trip.

 
         
 
Related Links:
 

Julian's Label Website: http://www.headheritage.co.uk/
Artist MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/julianhcope
Artist Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Cope
Also on EvilSponge:
    Concert: Sun.26.Sept.04
    Concert: Fri.24.Feb.06

 
         

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