Picks and Pans Review: Peggy Suicide

UPDATED 07/01/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/01/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

Julian Cope

Ah, excess! That quality, the very essence of many rock songs, still stokes the inferno in Cope's restless mind.

On his fifth solo album, he doesn't try to play the loudest, wildest music in history; he just overdoes everything else. Bombarding listeners with 18 songs, Cope offers 83 minutes of eccentric music, all set to a loose whirl of guitars, drums and keyboards.

His most Cope-ious, at times humorously passionate liner notes explain each song, with childlike parables, diatribes and quotes by disparate sources—from Lenny Bruce to Princeton politics professor Alan Ryan.

Other performers sing about the destruction of the environment, but for Cope it appears to be a personal obsession, as if every drop of acid rain burns a hole in his heart. He links most of the songs to a vision of a pollution-infected goddess he dubbed "Peggy Suicide."

Despite the punning allusion to Buddy Holly, the album owes most of its musical inspiration to the late '60s. Cope's deep, trippy delivery makes him sound as if he's vying with Oliver Stone for president of the Jim Morrison fan club. Many melodies are dressed in a flowing swath of electric guitar, not the finely tailored 1991 style.

At times, the music and lyrics combine to deliver a message. "Safe-surfer" interweaves an edgy guitar duet, a musical equivalent of troubled lovemaking, with pillow talk of a sinister lover who won't wear a condom.

Cope, ex-leader of the underground British band the Teardrop Explodes, usually avoids the lightweight pop songs that dominated his past solo albums. Perhaps as a tease to those who liked his old style, he waits till the 14th track to deliver "Beautiful Love," the only truly chirpy new number, inspired by swimming with dolphins.

Like many double albums, this one probably could be condensed into a tighter normal-length release. Then again, lack of restraint doesn't always lead to mere weirdness. It can—this is a case in point—generate refreshing music. (Island)

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