A nice surprise, last week, when Julian Cope sent over his new double vinyl album, “Kiss My Sweet Apocalypse”. A surprise, because I thought I might have been blackballed after struggling with some of the attitudes that came to the surface on last year’s musically excellent “Black Sheep”.

A nice surprise, last week, when Julian Cope sent over his new double vinyl album, “Kiss My Sweet Apocalypse”. A surprise, because I thought I might have been blackballed after struggling with some of the attitudes that came to the surface on last year’s musically excellent “Black Sheep”.

I don’t want to get into all that again, particularly after the rather edgy thread that followed the blog (hit the “Black Sheep” link above if you want a look). Fortunately, “Kiss My Sweet Apocalypse” – credited, significantly, to a band named Black Sheep – doesn’t have any songs criticising “blowing-themselves-up motherfuckers”.

Instead, Black Sheep (who look to have more or less the same personnel as on that last Cope album) have a tune named after a Palestinian freedom fighter, Leila Khaled, and generally seem to be indulging in a sort of rural terrorist chic: milk churns painted as bombs on the cover; a track called “We’re The Baa-aa-aader Meinhof!”; some German found tapes which mention Ulrike Meinhof.

Khaled also figures on the gatefold calendar of “Hebbs’ Outsider Icons”, alongside Jung, Yoko Ono, Einstein, Eddie Cochran, Patti Smith, Emily Pankhurst, Jim Morrison, TC Lethbridge, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Vachel Lindsay and, not to my taste, Joe Strummer. Since there’s none of the customary sleevenotes from Cope, it’s hard to make out how this all fits together, short of implying that his attitudes may have softened towards the fetishising of revolutionary cults. But there’s no privileging “indigenous” gods this time. . .

Anyway, music. It’s great again: windswept, organic, raggedly militaristic, often hugely daft. The credits announce, “Project directed by Julian Cope” and on Sides Three and Four two of his accomplices, Holy McGrail and Christophe F, take the lead.

Generally, though, the music follows the path set out on much of last year’s “Black Sheep”. Cope’s first two tracks, “Ernesto” (Guevera?) and “Leila Khaled”, are epic (18 and 15 minutes respectively) instrumental soundscapes of brooding strummed acoustics, Mellotron creaks and thunderstorm effects. The band sound endearingly battered and windswept, as if heard way in the distance, like some kind of outsider marching band, stoically out on manoeuvres across the blasted heath.

By the beautiful last track, “Heathen Frontiers In Sound” (a Cope/Christophe F co-write), they’ve come into focus somewhat: a soothing, melodic resolution to it all that features Cope gently chanting the title.

Earlier chants, though, are less calming. “War! Peace!” is ten minutes of gruff men bawling the title over staticky buzz , a needly guitar line and the odd explosion. The rickety jangle of “We’re The Baa-aa-aader Meinhof” features someone (Christophe F maybe? Not Cope, though) singing unsteadily, “We’re The Baa-aa-aader Meinhof and we’ve come to blow your balls off” (I think).

“Kiss My Sweet Apocalypse” (the Holy McGrail lead), meanwhile, begins with the title repeated in a roistering yeoman chant before dissolving into a bleak ambient piece. It recalls some of the Queen Elizabeth stuff Cope used to do with Thighpaulsandra, on the outer limits of Krautrock, with an added morris dancing jig towards the death. How you can deal with that stuff will affect how long you last of its 24 and a half minutes.

Fine by me these days, though. As is the whole of the album, more or less (the stridency of “War! Peace!” grates a bit after five minutes or so). There’s a comradely, jovial air to these hums and strummed meditations, these rain-spattered imprecations of doom. It asserts, perhaps, something we always knew about Julian Cope: that no matter how isolated he becomes, regardless of how far beyond the non-heathen frontiers of sound that he strays, he remains as indestructible as a cockroach. Now, what’s all this about terrorism?