Citizen Cain’d


citizen_cained.pngI swear it’s not some figment of my imagination. I really did see British art-rocker Julian Cope chatting it up with Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show in what now seems like another time on some other planet in the early 1990’s. He was plugging away Peggy Suicide, a concept album so chock full of mad brilliance that he really did deserve the short amount of attention that somehow got thrown his way. There he was with his long hair and a crazed smile, rattling on about the Buddy Holly inspired album title and how it served as an environmentally sound metaphor for the earth’s seemingly eminent self-destruction. He revealed that his most radio friendly single to date, Beautiful Love, was in fact a love song to a dolphin with which he frequently enjoyed swimming. Flippy or something, I think, was the mammal’s name. Well, maybe even then his antics were a bit much for the average American to digest on their way to work in the morning, but those were different times.

Different times indeed.

These days, Julian is pre-occupied with writing strange books about England’s prehistoric pagan stones when he’s not vibing on about Krautrock ad nauseam. Visit his website and you’ll see monthly rants so cloaked in British colloquialism, reading them would undoubtedly give Professor Henry Higgins a brain aneurism.

And it appears that these tiny little obsessions have accumulated over time to overshadow the one thing that used to be most important to him—the music. As I listened to his latest album, Citizen Cain’d, I became nostalgic for the eccentric artist he used to be. And began losing respect for the cult figure he’s trying to be.

It was perhaps a fore drawn conclusion. By mid-life you’ve either conquered the demons of your past or you’ve let them become you. Julian appears to be more concerned with tripping people out then making a wholly visceral statement. Actually, at this point, he may not even realize the difference. And that’s a loss with no real excuse. After all, there will be no corporate music executives to blame this time around (he’s gone all independent). So his call to reject irony in all its forms can only be taken as, well, little more than ironic.

The triumph of Peggy is nowhere to be fa-fa-fa-found on this album.

To wit, the 12 song effort is laughably split onto two discs, as if there were any perceived value in doing so. The stark black cover design also doesn’t help do anything but conjure the inside humor of This is Spinal Tap. Inexplicably, the discs disparately identify themselves via iTune’s CD database as Citizen Cain’d 1 and Citizen Cain’d [Side Two]. Now, I’m certain the artist could easily justify such an oddity in format (Peggy Suicide, for instance, was cleverly divided into something like four moon phases), but it just looks like somebody fell asleep on the way to the record press with this one. And, unfortunately for the Arch Drude, pretentiousness and sloppiness usually can’t occupy the same space at the same time.

And so it is with the music. Disc one displays all of Julian’s knee-jerk guitar tendencies, which at this point just come off sounding dull. Despite being some of his most clever word play in quite some time, I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In is nothing more than a poorly recorded rip-off of the Stooges’ Gimme Danger. That much might be appreciated were not the very next song, Gimme Head, paying a redundant homage. Particularly awful is the dirge anthem that closes out the disc, I Will Be Absorbed. It’s thirteen minutes of not being able to complete a thought, save for the thought of how much it sucks.

Disc Two does little to diffuse the impending mess, despite the presence of a few more production dollars. Feels Like A Crying Shame is decently recorded and has a lasting space out groove. As well, World War Pigs tries to be an effective protest song, but the build up to a shouting chorus at the end could have benefited from at least a dozen more voices. Stomping Dionysus is the well-hidden title track and one I had already become familiar with from an acoustic bootleg. It gives some context to the album’s title, drawing inspiration from Orson Welle’s famous film with the surprise ending.

Citizen Cain’d, again and again
Everything blows me away
‘Cause I got a light, different to you
Everything blows me away

From the psychedelic pop of the first three songs, we go careening back to a path of poor execution and senseless lyrical grandstanding with the last three. Sadly, the final song, The Living Dead, is the worst offender, leaving a dissatisfied final taste from a taste that was acquired from the very beginning.

There’s not much more to say.

Julian has always maintained a superhuman willingness to fall on his “arse” for the sake of his art. This is, actually, I think, quite an admirable quality. But it’s something else to see it done so many times by the same person. After a while people stop caring if you’ll get back up again. Having watched him degrade for over a decade now, I may be getting to that point.