COPE’S SELF CIVIL WAR

JANUARY REWIND: NEW JULIAN COPE. RAGING NEW PSYCHE/PROG/MATHCORE (and more) from SLIFT, ANIMAL SOCIETY, AZUSA (and more)

Decade of aggression? Art decade?

Whatever 2020 signals the start of, its first month has been fast. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs pushed Reducer out and promised a new album Viscerals in April. Algiers – a band who exist on a different plane of energy, intelligence and fury – put electro-powered gospel soul riot on the new year’s map with There is No Year.

And, beards ahoy, the Archdrude put a full-lengther out, so …

JULIAN COPE: Self Civil War

Like the Algiers album, Self Civil War is way too new to review – haven’t done the listening miles yet. But the first impressions are that Julian Cope is back.

Julian Cope Self Civil War

He’s back

He’s never been away, we know that, and he’ll always be a buy-immediately arteest for those of us who absolutely love the guy. But the recent Rites and Dopes and Skellingtons and John Balances have been less essential than Cope’s steam-hot streak from Jehovahkill through to Psychedelic Revolution, so it’s with a mix of hope and mild trepidation that you plug the new one in. Does another bunch of bass drum and chants beckon?

13 tracks and a way-generous 70-minute run time suggests not.

An untamed guitar break on That Ain’t No Way to Make a Million confirms not. Ladies and gents, we is entering into a Proper Cope Album. One with a bit of heft. It’s got the poetic roots, the too-catchy hooks, the uber smart lyrics, the Cope-class titles – My Facebook, Your Laptop is one, but even better is You Will Be Mist – but now, on this album, the return of some epic song-based sprawl (Requiem for a Dead Horse passes 11 minutes) and a questing, vibing six-string foil with Christopher Holman taking the Donald Ross Skinner/Doggen slot of Cope bands past.

As said above, these are just loose words and first impressions, but Self Civil War looks promising. Can’t wait to get stuck right in. JC gig review February 2020 if you fancy it.

Right, let’s pick off some other January ear manglers.

SLIFT: Ummon

How better to kick 2020 off than with a riotous jam that’s blastoid supernova? Set the guitar to the heart of the sun with Ummon’s six minutes of Earthless/Oh Sees frazzle and part-Motorhead depth charge. Is Toulouse known for its flame-throwing power trios? Doubt it, but that’ll change if Slift crack a new scene open. Until then, go air-guitar the shit out of this freewheeling space ripper.

ANIMAL SOCIETY: Rise

Instrumental heavy new prog. Slint-y post-rock creep. Drummer’s delight. Non-blues, high muso. With Rise, Animal Society grope a spidery route round the metallic jazz end of prog, luring you down any number of cracks and cave-holes, all of them dank. Something’s hidden and you skirt its presence. EP out now on bandcamp.

SQURL: Robbie’s Theme

Away from the psyche pyrotechnics and jazz-metallic fingerings of Slift and Animal House, we find Squrl, a.k.a. Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan. What play they? On this track it’s a beguiling strand of lush, melancholic Americana that distorts and bends with distortion. Notes ring, bleed, swell and cling. Beautiful heartbreak? Like recent Low, it’s one for the winter.

AZUSA: Memories of an Old Emotion

OM-FCKN-G. The award for Most Two-Faced Shred of the Month goes to Azusa, no question. Dillinger Escape Plan hostility one minute, Cocteau Twins sweet-pop dream-wooziness the next. And back. And back again. And converge the two … easily the most arresting sound of the month.

(Turns out ex Dillinger Escape Plan bassist Liam Wilson is in there, which is a pretty fair explanation for half the sound)

ELEPHANT TREE: Sails

When going back to this track for a second listen, I wondered why I’d bookmarked it in the first place. Why put this on my tape? (Various Radio 57, since you ask). Pleasant enough heavy trance riffage with clean floater vox, sure, but too average to make the cut. Something must happen. Hang on, riff change, bit of a drop. Not bad. Oh shit, yes … THAT BIT. The rockist solo, the divergent mass below. Flying and drowning. Serene, liquid metal. A bit too clean? Nah, something about Sails really sticks its claws in. Give it a go.

Downer sign-off

It’s been a shit month for rock RIPs on the drum front.

Rush’s Neil Peart and Corrosion of Conformity‘s Reed Mullin both left, as did former Death and Cynic drummer Sean Reinart. So, it’s been a Rush-heavy month round here. Grace Under Pressure onwards, special warmth for Power Windows. Mystic Rhythms …. why not?

’til next time.

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