CD Review

Julian Cope, You Gotta Problem With Me (Head Heritage)

The best rock album of this waning year is You Gotta Problem With Me, Julian Cope's psychedelic polemic against monotheist religions. You'll have no trouble recognizing its yellow, red and black cover, which reproduces a quote from Gore Vidal's 1992 essay "Monotheism and Its Discontents" in all caps, beginning, "THE GREAT UNMENTIONABLE EVIL AT THE CENTER OF OUR CULTURE IS MONOTHEISM" and ending, "I NOW FAVOUR AN ALL OUT WAR ON THE MONOTHEISTS." Beneath the text, the image of a longhaired heathen rocker banging a bass drum lovingly painted with Cope's crest, which depicts Odin's sacrifice of his eye, gives you a clue to the sort of freaks you're dealing with: devoted, literate, pagan psychonauts committed to busting their guts and the chthonic Nuggets chords in the expression of Cope's vision.

Since his landmark album Peggy Suicide, Cope's records, books and website (www.headheritage.co.uk) have elaborated a mythology and disclosed a scholarly curiosity about the world that make him seem increasingly like an English visionary in the tradition of William Blake. What makes You Gotta Problem With Me so remarkable is the balance Cope is able to maintain between his own obsessions and the violence of the time, so that his personal mythology enriches, rather than obscures, his imagination of the lives of different tribes of people trying to live together, or trying not to live together, all over the world.

When Cope quotes the piano from the opening bars of Patti Smith's "Gloria" at the end of the title track, or builds "Can't Get You Out of My Country" around the breakdown from Them's "Gloria," he's reminding you that rock has always defined the sacred as what's right there in front of you, and he drives the point home by sneering the phrase "invisible gawwwwd" until it begins to sound like a Homeric epithet. I regret to say that the vinyl sounds like it was mastered by an agent for the casuists, as it is not nearly loud enough. Pick up the two-sided CD so you can really feel those post-Pere Ubu synths in your brain stem.

 
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