Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

October Drudion

October 2008ce

On September 12th, the Archdrude headlined the Eric’s Memorial Show, in Liverpool. (photo: Common Era)
Hey Drudion,

After the success of the Liverpool Eric’s show a coupla weeks ago, I gots to admit that I was delighted to represent my old scene as headliner during Liverpool’s European City of Culture 2008. A lot of people asked why I’d chosen Pete Burns as my support, but there were two major reasons; the first being that we’d been friends from very early on, and the second being that Pete (more than anyone else but myself from that old Liverpool punk scene) has constantly represented the outsider in our society, as opposed to many of my old muckers who are still promising the world, but peddling the same old world view and the same old macho stereotypes… Sheesh! I also felt it necessary to ask myself if, as a self-appointed ‘Cultural Irritant’, am I really making myself clear enough? The American judge Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out that “Genius does not herd with genius”, but should “Cultural Irritant herd with Cultural Irritant”? This was certainly the reason why I chose Pete Burns out of the list of possible support acts for my Liverpool show. That said, I soon discovered once Pete and I started talking that he found the whole ‘back in the day’ thing even more psychically exhausting to deal with than I do. I really can’t imagine how everyone who re-forms their old bands manages to deal with it, because it’s almost as weird to me as the thought of going back to school. Perhaps having got my autobiographies HEAD-ON and REPOSSESSED out of the way early on, I’ve not been forced to dwell on former glories like many others. Or perhaps it’s just because throughout these past two decades, I’ve been so engaged in full on exploration and research that I’ve been allowed to deal with the distant past by running as fast as I can away from it all.

BRIGHT BLUE GALILEE by Dreamweapon

Okay, let’s now move on to the review section of this Drudion. I’ll commence with the most useful release of the month, which must surely be the transcendentally tripped out witterings of BRIGHT BLUE GALILEE, a single 36-minute epic by the American ten-piece ensemble Dreamweapon (aka DRMWPN). Available on the forward-thinking UK label Apollolaan Recordings, Dreamweapon utilise their vast arsenal of percussion, keyboards and strange string instruments to enslave the minds of listeners, dragging them down into the underworld via a series of ever-unfolding phased vocal chants, in a similar manner to Valley of Ashes’ massive triple LP, the more vocal heavy side of Sunburned Hand of the Man and PARADIESWARTS DÜÜL-period Amon Düül. As so many contemporary musicians attempt to perform similar music to Dreamweapon, such stuff can be judged only by how often the listener needs to engage with it; that I’ve been compelled to rotate this sucker endlessly is surely evidence of its extreme success. Bless you for birthing it, ladies’n’gennelmen! Score this essential motherfucker from Volcanic Tongue (www.volcanictongue.com).

DREAMERS OF DECADENCE by Scorces

Also available from Volcanic Tongue is DREAMERS OF DECADENCE, the epic new album by the American female power duo Scorces. Starring underground legends Heather Leigh Murray and Christina Carter on vocals, petal steel [sic] and e. guitar respectively, and clad in a superb gold’n’black cover that portrays the two as the Cherie Currie and Joan Jett of the underground, this is another highly useful and mesmerizing record that liquidizes time and vaporizes your mind. The sole 40-minute title track is a riotous feast of banshee vocals and glassy glissando guitars that evoke the image of 10,000 radio controlled robot flamingos attempting in vain to achieve lift off from an icy lake at the top of the world. Those of you with a Jones for good vinyl should also check out I TURN INTO YOU, a double vinyl release from this prolific pair currently available on the superb Not Not Fun Records (www.notnotfun.com). With just one long track per side, this vinyl release is perhaps less mind-manifesting than DREAMERS OF DECADENCE, but still a highly beautiful and necessary item.

THE NATURALIZATION OF THE CETACEAN NATION by 5-Track and Abalone Sandwich

I’ve also been digging the tripped out lo-fi oceanic world according to THE NATURALIZATION OF THE CETACEAN NATION by 5-Track and Abalone Sandwich, a shambling and ambient quartet that starts off something like my own ‘Ringed Hills of Ver’ (from RITE 2) before descending into a series of long and distant coastal wah-guitar meditations that send listeners to the edge of Catatonia. Imagine generic free rock bubbling through a 2” shortwave radio speaker overheard on an Ibiza beach whilst swimming close to the shore, and you’ve nailed these guys’ metaphor completely. When you’re in these guys’ company, time evaporates and everyday is Southern Sardinia. By the way, their album is available from guitarist 5-track, via his own website at www.5-track.com or through his myspace site at www.myspace.com/fivespace.

QUETEV MERIRI by Quetev Meriri

One of the most intriguing trios to emerge in a long while must be Israel’s Quetev Meriri, whose self-titled debut is just out now on the Gush Punk label (almamusic@gmail.com). In just 44 minutes of degraded free noise, Ashkenáze mouth music, ritualistic avant-Kletzmorim ritual and droning back porch meanderings, Quetev Meriri create an amazing and alienating travelogue soundtrack that successfully celebrates the lives of such Jewish notables as Marxist philosophers Rosa Luxemburg and Walter Benjamin, theologians Franz Rosenzweig and Emmanuel Levinas, and Serbian poet Vasko Popa; and all achieved via bizarre instrumental themes and heady Hebrew vocal harmonies. Except for the MEET THE RESIDENTS-plays-Trumpton theme of ‘Franz Rosenzweig’, Quetev Meriri’s massed accordions, post-punk guitars, slapped banjos, percussion devices and triple voices conspire to create an amazing stew of sound the like of which I’ve never before encountered. If you want your mind blown but cannot afford the time off work (or the black market price of general anaesthetic), score this truly essential sucker from the aforementioned Gush Punk label, and pronto, Tonto.

BASEMENT TAPES VOLUME 2 by Terminal Lovers

Great to see Dave Cintron’s Terminal Lovers are back at last after over half a decade away. His all-new incarnation of the band is featured here on two huge grooves that both clock in at well over a quarter-of-an-hour each. And despite my yearning for the absent riffology and anguished larynx of earlier Cintron times, I truly believe that we must totally accept an artist’s shifting metaphor rather than pine for the good old times. Those Head Heritage freaks who go way back will remember Herr Cintron’s scored a pair of HH Albums of the Month, with the Lovers’ DRAMA PIT & LOAN (Review #44 back in January 2004CE) and with his earlier band The Downside Special (Review #50 in June 2004CE). Well, he’s back and his new ramalama is real guitar-informed head trauma, and it’s available once again on his own Biological Records label (www.davecintron.com).

FAKING IT by Hugh Barker & Yuval Taylor

Those of you with a fascination for the early roots of rock’n’roll should also check out the UK debut of FAKING IT: THE QUEST FOR AUTHENTICITY IN POPULAR MUSIC, an excellent book by Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor. Published by Faber & Faber (www.faber.co.uk), this paperback is not without its faults, being at times a little too dry (à la Greil Marcus) and far too low on contemporary evidence. But it’s still one of the most interesting rock’n’roll books to come my way in a long while, especially as it supports the JAPROCKSAMPLER stance I took in my sub-chapter ‘The War Against Authenticity’ (see page 12). What Messrs. Barker and Taylor have shown herein is just how much fudging was involved in order for movers & shakers to ‘create’ such seemingly authentic artists as Elvis, Mississippi John Hurt (whose own record company foisted that prefix upon him) and even Leadbelly (who was forced by his white mentors to sing only songs that a white audience regarded to be stereotypically ‘Negro’, and to don a prison uniform for his stage performances). The authors also make the superb point that those who have a problem with a well-educated middle class Aussie such as Nick Cave appropriating the vocal stylings of a Southern American hellfire preacher will, most likely, have exhibited no such qualms when Johnny Cash decided to cover Cave’s hymn to impending incineration via the electric chair ‘The Mercy Seat’. The authors suggest that while Cash (despite his San Quentin legend) never served time in jail, his version of Cave’s song appears more ‘authentic’ than Cave’s own overly histrionic arrangement simply because Cash strips it down to a bare bones acoustic guitar accompaniment. As evidenced by MTV’s bizarre ‘Unplugged’ policy in the 1990s – in which such electric instruments as Hammond organ and electric bass could still be employed – the status of so-called ‘authenticity’ in music will always be dependent on the performance of each individual artist. In the meantime, get your peepers around this tome if you want to see a few shockers.

SUNSHINE SUPERMAN: THE JOURNEY OF DONOVAN

Finally, I must heap praise on Hannes Rossacher’s excellent (and quite epic) Donovan documentary SUNSHINE SUPERMAN: THE JOURNEY OF DONOVAN, a two-disc DVD on SPV Recordings (www.spv.de). Down the years, I’ve always believed that Donovan was quite unfairly written off by the establishment simply for having been too Utopian in the‘60s, and thereafter for not having apologised for said Utopianism. When Donovan first burst on to the scene in 1965, aged only eighteen, he was first hailed as a ‘new Dylan’, then almost crucified for it the following year. In reality, Donovan was a wide-eyed truth seeker with an incredible gift for melody, a wandering poet with a singular, nay, Odinist eye on the role he was playing, a young minstrel who introduced much truly mind manifesting music to youth culture via his stylized singing voice (one that Marc Bolan would later appropriate and take into the 70s). The current interviews with Donovan presented in Hannes Rossacher’s superb film reveal a genuinely enlightened man, a seer and visionary whose all-too-brief time at the top will one day be used as evidence of what the1960s’ zeitgeist really proposed. With 20/20 hindsight, Donovan’s only real crime – to the rock establishment at least – was that he didn’t die, become a smack addict or move to India. That he’s still such a wise and unembittered older man is remarkable and laudable, to say the very least. And with that final remark (and with the central banks of the USA collapsing around our ears as we speak), I shall sod off once again. But not without first wishing y’all good luck and financial security in these troubled times.

Mucho love (und macho hugs)

JULIAN (Lord Yatesbury)