Picks and Pans Review: My Nation Underground

updated 03/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Julian Cope

Snap went the microphone stand. Then Cope dragged the jagged metal edge across his stomach, drawing blood as he quoted British actor Kenneth Williams: "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me." This scene at a mid-1980s London concert, along with Cope's penchant for collecting toy cars and monsters and his current devotion to speed-walking, earn him the reputation for being a world-class strange guy, even for a rock star. Now Cope's second U.S. solo album reveals the other half of this split personality: His music is absolutely, certifiably, totally...normal. Bouncy, bright and danceable, Cope's pop songs bring to mind such '60s bands as the Grass Roots. If commercial radio programmers would play anything other than the 10 bands that everybody already knows, they would find at least two Top 40 hits on this album. Backed on several songs by lively horns and a chorus, Cope sounds alternately like David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and Huey Lewis. Despite his odd, obsessive lyrics, Cope no longer even comes close to the cutting-edge image he once held as leader of the early-1980s British band the Teardrop Explodes. My Nation Underground will appeal mostly to yuppies, who will find in it the perfect exercise music, for warm-ups ("China Girl," "Charlotte Anne") or sprints ("The Great White Hoax" and a remake of the Vogues' song "Five O'Clock World"). Okay, everybody, line up behind that weird guy and go, go, go, bounce, bounce, bounce. (Island)

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