In contrast to the crisp, clean sound of World, Fried often sounds rougher, a bit more shut in. Combine that with Cope's generally successful attempts to project an image of barely stable sanity, helped in large part by the notorious wearing-nothing-but-a-turtle-shell cover photos, and the idea of Fried as his album of crazed musical collapse understandably is a strong one. However, World producer Steve Lovell once again handles things here, along with playing guitar, while even more importantly, key Cope collaborator Donald Ross Skinner, a young musician from Cope's hometown, makes his debut. Kate St. John again contributes cor anglais throughout, adding a haunting atmosphere on many cuts. If anything, the album shows that Cope may be completely musical tripping out as he chooses but he knows exactly what he's doing throughout. Certainly the first cut, "Reynard the Fox," shows him balancing inspiration and arrangement perfectly -- one of his strongest, catchiest choruses eventually bleeds into a freaked-out spoken word bit followed by a total rave-up. Other songs range from further on-the-edge efforts -- the frenetic "O King of Chaos" and more generally weird "Sunspots" -- to gentler, wistful numbers like "Laughing Boy" and "Search Party" that effectively capture a rural psych feeling akin to XTC's own work at the same time. In all, Fried shows Cope at his dramatic best -- he's not disintegrating by inches, but he knows how to project that impression with vigor and skill, all while sounding like himself most of all. He gets in a hilarious slam along the way -- "Bill Drummond Said" trashes, by means of an energetic enough folk/rock combination, his former manager from Teardrop Explodes days. Drummond got his revenge years later -- while most well-known for his work in the KLF, his solo album The Man featured a ditty called "Julian Cope Is Dead."
by Ned Raggett