A big mention first off for our coverage from the Latitude Festival, which should be kicking off any minute now. The Uncut team will be blogging pretty much non-stop for the next three days, so please keep an eye on our dedicated blog for the first reviews of Thom Yorke, Nick Cave, Spiritualized and so on.
I’ll be staying in London for the weekend, but I will be at the Witchseason Fairport Convention All-Stars show on Saturday night, so watch out for a report from that, too.
Thoughts of Latitude, though, coincided this morning with a spin for the Deluxe Edition of Julian Cope’s “Peggy Suicide”. Cope, some of you may remember, did an auspicious turn at last year’s festival which included an apocalyptically weird version of “Peggy”’s opening track, “Pristeen”, among various other crowd-baiting delights.
In the 18 years since “Peggy Suicide” was first released, Cope’s full-blooded and bizarre career – his musical one, at least – has shot off on so many disconcerting tangents that his appeal is now, I guess, more or less strictly underground (I’m still representing, not least for this year’s Black Sheep jam). In some ways, then, it’s odd to revisit “Peggy” – engraved in my mind as maybe his best album and also the start of his “mature” psych-shaman phase – and discover that, amidst the freakouts, it’s also a very tidy pop record.
Somewhat miraculously, the likes of “Beautiful Love” and “East Easy Rider” manage to be at once very much products of their time – loping dance-rock hybrids, that wouldn’t have sounded out of place next to, well, the latest My Jealous God single – and yet also strong and artful enough to work in 2009. “Drive She Said”, especially, is a great, pumping pop song – the sort of thing that Cope still sneaks out every now and again when his many detractors aren’t paying attention.
True to form, though, it’s the frontloaded psych that I keep coming back to: the levitating guitars of Don-Eye and Moon-Eye (presumably) on “Double Vegetation”; “Hanging Out And Hung Up On The Line”’s fraught, expansive garage rock; and best of all, “Safesurfer” in which Cope’s finest song comes riding in on the back of an exquisitely maggot-brained guitar solo Still sounds amazing.
A quick word for Disc Two of this set, which harvests a bunch of contemporaneous b-sides, some of which show their age a bit – the opening “Easty Risin’” remix of “East Easy Rider” operates very much in the shadows of Andrew Weatherall and “Screamadelica”, for a start. The odd minimalist acid track like “Ravebury Stone” tends to work better than these remixes (certainly better than the “Love LUV Remix” of “Beautiful Love”), foreshadowing in some ways the Krautrock motorik pulse that would soon consume Cope.
“Dragonfly” is great, though, a driving Mysterians jam that suggests again Cope was listening to plenty of Funkadelic at the time, and there’s a piano-heavy, live-sounding take on “Safesurfer” if, understandably, you can’t get enough of that one.