U.K. eccentric Julian Cope reclaims his whimsy and melodicism on Drunken Songs, a pleasing six-track LP of shambling pop narratives devoted to his latter-day embrace of booze. While the Arch Drude has long been associated with the mind-expanding nature of psychedelic drugs, age has apparently softened his disdain for one of Britain's favorite pastimes, and his newfound love of alcohol -- particularly beer -- manifests itself in odes like "Liver Big as Hartlepool," "As the Beer Flows Over Me," and "Don't Drink and Drive (You Might Spill Some)." Opener "Drink Me Under the Table" is one of Cope's finest pop constructions in well over a decade, replete with his signature Mellotron orchestrations and recalling some of the grandeur or mid-'90s classics like 20 Mothers and Interpreter. A typically bizarre outing, Drunken Songs offers Liverpudlian nostalgia on the acoustic "Liver Big as Hartlepool," loony accordion-led pub balladry on "Clonakilty as Charged," and even a dirge-like tribute ("As the Beer Flows Over Me") written for his own funeral. Anchoring the album is the mighty closer "On the Road to Tralee" which, at nearly 19-minutes long, effectively acts as Drunken Songs' entire "Side Two." A conversationally sung, acoustic recounting of a drunken bus ride through southwest Ireland, "Tralee" is equal parts narrative, field recording, and miniature prog epic, offering some of the best of what Cope has to offer. About three-quarters of the way through, a clamorous whistle-and-drum funeral march interrupts the journey before the song (and album) finally concludes with an inebriated Drude exhaling a jolly a cappella tune as he totters down the lane. With whiffs of Skellington, Autogeddon, and even early World Shut Your Mouth-era Cope, Drunken Songs is still its own unique animal and reveals our hero to be in fine creative fettle, still challenging himself and listeners even after 30 albums.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger