Julian Cope

20 Mothers

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Returning to a full CD's worth of material, Cope on 20 Mothers creates 20 songs, covering a wide variety of topics as opposed to the general concept records from his then-recent past. Everything from reestablishing contact with his estranged brother Joss ("Wheelbarrow Man") to vegetarianism, bandmates, his mother-in-law, and even Kurt Cobain get touched on, as discussed in his entertaining liner notes. It's a bit of a fractured record as a result, but no less interesting for it, containing the range of Peggy Suicide without sounding like a revamp of it. Moon-Eye is the main guitarist in place of Skinner, who only contributes a bit of Omnichord here and there, while Thighpaulsandra is a full part of the band, contributing synths, piano, and string arrangements (which crop up throughout the album and are quite exquisite). Cosby provides his excellent drumming as always, while old bassist James Eller and producer Ed Stasium turn up for "Try, Try, Try." This lovely ballad-into-energy number was the lead single, providing Cope with one last U.K. Top 40 hit before fully turning his back on the charts and major labels. Often his singing on 20 Mothers is a bit strained in comparison to earlier albums, whether it's the production, his throat, or just the way he wants to do things is unclear, but it's a touch disconcerting on first blush. Musically, the same rough but right feeling on Autogeddon prevails, with plenty of detours into tribal psych, feedback madness, even quirky synth-pop; if anything, the overall sound is a bit thicker in points than the at-times hollower recordings on the earlier record. An amusing cover note is that the front picture is, indeed, 20 mothers, with Cope's legendary-in-her-own-right wife Dorian second from the right in the front row, while Cope is pictured with his daughters Albany and Avalon on the back.

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