Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Teardrop Explodes - Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro (1980) ***1/2

Julian Cope, one of the most interesting rock personalities ever, has for the most part been more interesting as a drug-addled Druid-obsessed personality than for his actual music.  Though he claims his ouvre as Krautrock-influenced modern psychedelia, what this debut (and most of his subsequent albums, as well) amounts to is shiny, bouncy '60s influenced pop.  Not that that's a bad thing, mind you - these are nearly all some catchy tuneage.  The core drums/bass/guitar/keyboards quartet slather extra horns all over the place, on practically half the tracks, for a bright, colorful swirl that's brassy-poppy and soul-punchy.  It's all catchily entertaining if much more lightweight than Cope probably intended; his ripe baritone melodramatically bellows lyricisms that are meant to sound deep but are easily discerned as little more than the teenage scribblings about teenage romance appropriate to a boy barely out of his teens when these songs were recorded.  "Comic books are all I read," Cope admits at one point, and I believe him.  It's a refreshingly consistent and reasonably diverse debut, with each track standing out as individually memorable piece.  Tracks like "Second Head," and "Went Crazy," with their bubbling bass lines and tribal thumping, showcase the rhythm section effectively, while "Bouncing Babies," soars on a ethereally punchy keyboard ascendation, and the opener, "Ha Ha, I'm Drowning," carries the horn section as its musical core.  "Treason," and "Sleeping Gas," sound like the obvious picks for A-sides; the former an urgently pleading pop number to a girl that Cope is confused to declare his troth to (or something), the latter simply chronicling the confusion of a drug-induced euphoria (duh-err, just look at the title, it's an ode to nitrous oxide, dummy).   Needless to say, "Treason," is bouncily melodic and heartachingly upbeat, while "Sleeping Gas," drifts prettily in a fading in-out haze.  Not all of these songs register (I could do without the snoozy "Poppies in the Field," about guess what, and "Books," is rather hectoring), but hey, here's a sleeper - "Thief of Baghdad," buried near the end, marches into my room with full-on psuedo-psychedelized, psuedo-Orientalized bliss.  This album is most likely the highlight of Cope's career, for which the journey of 1,000 trips on acid begins with but a single dozen steps.

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