Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Cosmic Interception

Released 1994 on Variant
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 05/06/2003ce

1. Cosmic Interception (Red Transistor Radio Mix)
2. Radio World
3. Leave Your Body
4. Inside Shadowland
5. Ultraviolet Light
6. Be Yourself
7. Shake, Rattle & Roll
8. This Is Pop Rock
9. Cosmic Interception (Cosmic Truth Mix)
10. Cosmic Interception (Cosmic Dance Mix)

If you've ever heard VON LMO's classic 1981 Hawkwind-fronted-by-Graham-Parker-jamming-with-Sun-Ra album "Future Language" you probably instantly became a fan, and are probably dying to know more about this mysterious character, as I was when I stumbled dumbfounded across -- a second VON LMO album!

When last we heard from this legend of No-Wave in the early 80's he had blown all his dough funding a "stadium" concert, then went into suspended animation for a trip home to planet Strazar where he had important business to attend to. But then in 1994 (according to the liner notes): "Having solved the problems on Strazar, VON LMO has returned to Earth. Through the miracle of suspended animation and supertuminic space travel he has grown younger and stronger and is once again creating alternate realities in sounds and visions here on Earth. VON LMO is determined to help you ADVANCE YOURSELF!"

Well, maybe musically this album isn't as great as all that, but it does have a couple of nice features in addition to satisfying your thirst for more LMO riffage: first, some photos of the master (including live on stage) where he is wearing a more normal outfit of black leather and shades instead of the spacesuit featured on the "Future" album cover (think Link Wray from Mars); and second liner notes that contain the usual VON LMO weirdness (he claims to have learned music theory from Sun Ra on the planet Saturn, etc.) but also some actual facts about his career (such as, before forming the band he named after himself in 1978, VON was the prime mover in another no-wave band called Red Transistor whose lone single was reissued in 1991 on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label.)

The amazing "Future Language" album is certainly the place to start exploring the VON LMO universe (it is capably reviewed here at Unsung by "aaroneous"), but "Cosmic Interception" will add something to your musical understanding even though it contains many of the same songs: in fact 6 of the 8 songs here are also on the first album, though these are different and (seemingly) live versions (perhaps from the notorious self-funded "concert and laser show" he put on at NYC's Palladium in the early 80's?) Which is actually kinda cool -- where "Future Language" is drenched in all sorts of phasing and distortion effects, the same songs are delivered here relatively straight. In fact so straight that there aren't even very many guitar or saxophone solos. Juno Saturn's sax playing was always sort of subdued, but here he usually just blows the tonic note of the riff through a bunch of echo -- kind of a didgeridoo effect. VON mostly sing/raps (and yelps his trademark "WOO!") and only occasionally plays guitar. So what comes through is really the power of the rhythm section (in particular Craig Coffin's muscular bass throb) and the quality of the songs themselves.

"Radio World" is a stone classic, right up there with the Modern Lover's "Roadrunner" and the Velvet's "Rock & Roll" in the pantheon of songs about the radio (it also name checks VON's first band: "she was listening to a Red Transistor. . . ") "Leave Your Body" and "This Is Pop Rock" are great punk-metal stompers, and the motivating alien anthem "Be Yourself" is also reprised well here. VON's Sun-Ra-meets-Bill-Haley attack on "Shake Rattle & Roll" is the same version as appeared on the CD reissue of "Future", the only exact overlap with that other disc, but this tune is a real doozy and features the most out-there sax and guitar racket in the whole LMO ouevre.

The two *NEW!* songs included here are "Inside Shadowland" and "Cosmic Interception" (which is presented in three different versions.) Both of these songs seem to have been recorded a decade later than the "live" material, and are basically home studio solo recordings by VON. The sound here is completely different than the classic LMO sound, being based on loops and keyboards instead of a live band. In fact these songs sound quite a bit like fellow travelers Suicide, who pioneered a minimallist electronic version of "punk" in the late 70's (and it also occurs to me that VON's trademark "WOOOO!" is also a lot like Alan Vega's falsetto punctuations on the first Suicide album . . . . hmmm.)

On the title track a monotonous programmed bass riff rumbles along while VON robotically chants "We-trans-mit . . . cosmic messages" for choruses and raps "you intercept / what we transmit / WOOOO!" for verses. The first mix is very stripped down, in fact has no guitars at all. The second "Cosmic Truth" version is longer and features a bunch of overdubbed guitar noise, making it the best version. The third "Dance" mix just adds extra percussion and is the least necessary.

"Inside Shadowland" is a bit more like a real song, with Von sarcastically sneering out a menacing Orwellian vision: "in the shadows high / you will never die / you will learn to be happy / inside shadowland." Sorta interesting in that usually VON focuses on the positive power of cosmic messages from outer space (as on "Be Yourself.")

So what happened next? Well, VON LMO recorded a whole 'nuther album in 1997, "Red Resistor", also on Variant records! When I find that one I'll let you know how it sounds!

Until then . . . .

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