Julian Cope

You Gotta Problem With Me

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Julian Cope is back with another unfeigned stab at anything that puts a bee under his bonnet. The Arch-Drude manages to display his baser nature with the Brain Donor records (like 2003's Too Freud to Rock 'N' Roll, Too Jung to Die), while his solo albums seem to search for the perfect blend of modern protest songs and garage rock. Following in the footsteps of Citizen Cain'd, You Gotta Problem with Me covers subject matter from corporate greed to celebrity culture, homophobia, and the war in Iraq. But his main target this time out is what he terms the misogynistic "Sky-God religions" of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It's both passionate and silly, slapdash yet gorgeous, chock-full of new ideas and concerns while informed by nuggets of arcane antiquity -- like most of his work in the last two decades. "Doctor Know" opens the first CD -- perversely, he has split in two this hour-long CD to approximate the turning of the vinyl record -- with an eloquent nine-minute epic. Though it proves Cope's knack for marrying a thought-provoking lyric to a fluid melody, musically it's not quite up to the standards of, say, his "Safesurfer." "Beyond Rome" and "Soon to Forget Ya" are fun while they last, but in their brief burn they remain more like sketches than fully developed songs. The title song manages to showcase the attributes that make Cope tick these days. Its raw crunch and humorously delivered chorus turn into an almost saccharine, lilting melody before it's over, and the natural flow between the polar opposite sections are a joy to both the mind and the ear.

It's been a common complaint among Cope's followers that he left the path of pop perfection to follow his muse after 1996's Interpreter and in doing so, he's managed to make commercially unviable and raw records that few are willing to release in a business too often run by accountants rather than artists. While he may be shooting himself in the foot with this release commercially speaking, it isn't the first time he has done so, and artistically he continues on his more recent path of garage psychedelia paired with politically inflammatory material that should leave nobody cold. A song title like "Vampire State Building" is in itself provocative, but its eerie, retro-electronic backing and Cope's heartfelt exploration into the expanding clutches of the Bush administration are difficult to dismiss. "Can't Get You out of My Country" and "They Gotta Different Way of Doing Things" are less compelling but infectiously catchier takes on the effects of the Iraq war. Cope's trickster personality promises you'll be as likely to love sections of the album as you are to hate them, sometimes even just a section of a song. Lyrically he vacillates between sharp and awkward, and he's at his best when he doesn't take himself too seriously. Musically, the CD ranges from naked, acoustic ballads like "Woden" to such sharp, electric scorchers as "Peggy Suicide Is a Junkie." The latter is informed by Cope's passion for ear-melting Japanese psychedelic rock, a subject so unheralded and neglected he felt compelled to write a book on it (Japrocksampler, 2007, a thematic follow-up to his groundbreaking book on Krautrock, Krautrocksampler, from 1994). Cope remains the modern antiquarian. Overall, though not up to the standards of Citizen Cain'd or his early-'90s masterpieces, Peggy Suicide and Jehovahkill, You Gotta Problem with Me continues Cope's illuminating and aggravating explorations. Regardless of one's reservations, the CD is intellectually interesting and challenging, an emotional blend of anger and compassion. From an artist who has endured some 30 years in the "business" and a string of high-profile pop hits, this level of soul-baring searching is almost unheard of.

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