Recruiting another key sideman, percussionist Rooster Cosby, Cope approached an album that, by the end of recording, he was on the verge of disowning. Inspired moments aside, one can understand why: My Nation Underground has just about everything going for it (good sound, neat cover, some sharp songs) except for Cope's own vision. That he rebounded from this with three far more individual efforts -- the semi-official Skellington and Droolian, and the masterful Peggy Suicide -- makes all that much more sense when giving My Nation Underground an ear. The high points that are here are actually quite fine -- though he professed to hate the results, his rushed run-through of the cheese classic "5 O'Clock World," spliced with a bit from "I Know a Place," is a kicky, fun way to start the album. "Charlotte Anne," meanwhile, manages the odd trick of sounding like a snaky Peter Gabriel track circa his third album plus just enough fillips and touches to make it a Cope song, especially with his mid-song spoken word bit. Most of the time, though, Cope, Skinner, DeHarrison, and company sound like they're fulfilling a record company brief to make a saleable commercial alternative album, late-'80s style. Ron Fair's production touches tended towards the anonymously clichéd, pushing forward Saint Julian's one big problem and making it more consistent throughout. The title track is a good example of something which should be right going terribly wrong -- the squelchy synths and arrangement almost drown Cope's idiosyncratic lyric, while the backing chorus sounds unfortunately like the type of pseudo-funky thing to be expected from contemporaneous Steve Winwood or Eric Clapton. Even the cover of the old Shadows of Knight nugget "Someone Like Me" falls a bit victim to this, despite the very Teardrops-like horn arrangement.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett