To say that Julian Cope's 29th album Revolutionary Suicide is a return to form would be disingenuous. After all, the prolific artist has taken on so many roles over the years, you'd be hard-pressed to choose which one: pop singer, anarchist, ecologist, pagan scholar and self-proclaimed "Archdrude" are just a few that spring to mind. Beginning with the 1991 release of his politicized and beautifully shambolic seventh album Peggy Suicide, Cope has consistently taken the road less traveled, becoming the kind of untouchable outsider whose public image has become too strange to be seen as anything but his own true character. Fans of his music and books see him as a sort of hip, lovable, modern-day folk hero, while those lacking the patience to engage in his revolutionary politics and massive catalog likely write him off as a "character" or an "oddball" at best. But, however you view Julian Cope, his intelligence, wit, and wholly self-assured world view are undeniable assets which make just about any of his releases worth considering. Referencing a familiar muse from his Peggy Suicide days, Cope offers the following inscription in Revolutionary Suicide's liner notes: "This album was completed on April 17th, 2013, the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral. That she ruled so long was our living nightmare." His ongoing contempt of right-wing politics, his anti-religious stance, and his frequent references to Pagan gods could, in many cases, make for a pretty unpalatable listen, but somehow Cope pulls it off with humor and a kind of weirdo audacity that few can wield with any conviction. Part of his artistry is being able to draw you into a song like "Why Did the Chicken Cross My Mind?" where he waves his politics in your face while you continue to chuckle over the title and its ridiculously Cope-ian vocal wah-wah solo, which doesn't even begin until four-and-a-half minutes in. Like many of his recent albums, Revolutionary Suicide is split between two discs with Cope playing almost all of the instruments himself. If you weren't already getting his singular vision on prior albums, you're certainly getting it now. The opener "Hymn to the Odin" wouldn't have been out of place on 1994's Autogeddon, with its breezy acoustic guitar, Mellotron, and spoken-word verses referencing Anglo-Saxon deities, Waden Hill, and other megalithic sites in the U.K. By and large, the song arrangements and production hover somewhere between the more lo-fi attempts of his later work and the mid-'90s grandeur of the mono-synth orchestrations he made with former collaborator Thighpaulsandra. Disc two's "Paradise Mislaid" is a welcome return to the more pop-oriented material of 1996's Interpreter, as is the uplifting and melodic "In His Cups." Even the 15-minute album-closer "Destroy Religion," with its bongo-driven dark incantations and haunting sound collage, is a testament to the kind of freewheeling experimentalism Cope has long championed. At times funny, angry, dramatic, and spirited, Revolutionary Suicide is a charming amalgam of Cope's many faces and is easily his best work in years.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2