Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Kory Clarke
Opium Hotel


Released 2003 on Cargo
Reviewed by kwd, 30/01/2006ce


“They put us in danger
They took our bill of rights
They took our freedom
For their fucking oil fights”

- 'Reverse', Opium Hotel


No disputing what – or who – THAT is aimed at. Sneered over a sinewy riff that snakes and swirls round a semi-electronic backbone, it’s a grooving highlight from Opium Hotel, the first solo album by former Warrior Soul frontman, Kory Clarke. After languishing in the rock wasteland since that band self-destructed in 1995, the Detroit motormouth has rediscovered his most (dis)trusted lyrical muse – Corporate America – and thrown up a 21st-century psychedelic spew of dense sound collages, lo-fi beats and mangled guitars to vent some serious spleen. Musically, it’s a loose-fitting departure from the straightjacket of Clarke’s metallirock background, but the cocksure swagger and snot-punk attitude is 100% intact…

'Religion Buzz', all distorted vox and stop-start glam riff jerk, is a shoutalong rocker that’s as close as the record gets to Warrior Soul’s anthemic alt-metal or Space Age Playboys’ (Clarke’s short-lived post-Soul project) hedonistic punk. Elsewhere, and in no particular order, things are VERY different. The title track’s ramshackle acoustic busk - shabby and dishevelled from small-hours booze - slumps next to 'The City Today', a detached sliver of lo-fi eccentricity which, bless its digi soul, sounds like it was recorded for nowt on the first ever Casio keyboard. Quirky? Not half. 'Dream Japan' floats by on a serene electro-lullaby cloud, and the suitably icy 'Penguin Song' throws surreal swipes at capitalism (“the ruling class are penguins… riding on top of their frozen dungeons”) before 'Boom Ka Boom' ups the aggro ante:

“Elite walk on your corpses
Enjoy nothing on corporate drugs…
…Pepsi broke. Raining smoke. Oil cloak.”

With its relentless tempo and needle-stuck-in-groove rhythm, 'Boom Ka Boom' spits lyrical contempt over a brick-hard bed of string loops, samples and industrialised beats - like listening to the radio AND a record while a washing machine cranks itself up to spin rinse in the background and overrides everyfcknthing. Need I say more? One of Opium’s highest points, no question.

'Corporate Genocide', 'Without Guns' and 'Another War' require no lyrical explanation, and musically, they fit right in with the rest of the arty/mellow/abrasive creations. BOREDOM IS NOT AN OPTION. To these ears, Opium Hotel shows Clarke at his pissed-off, acerbic, arrogant, conscience-pricking best. It’s rock… but not as we know it. Not quite.


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