Julian Cope Peggy Suicide Deluxe Edition
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Casting the ill-advised attempts at too-clean modern rock from his late-'80s days firmly aside and fulfilling the promise of Skellington and Droolian, Cope on Peggy Suicide produced his best album to date, overtopping even his Teardrop Explodes efforts. Showing a greater musical breadth and range than ever before, from funk to noise collage -- and more importantly, not sounding like a dilettante at any step of the way -- Cope and his now seasoned backing band, with drummer J.D. Hassinger in and De Harrison out, surge from strength to strength. Ostensibly conceived as a concept album regarding potential ecological and social collapse, Cope wisely seeks to set moods rather than create a straitjacketed story line. As a result, Peggy Suicide can be enjoyed both as an overall statement and as a collection of individual songs; its sequencing is excellent to boot, moving from song to song as if it was always meant to be that way. Cope's voice is a revelation -- for those not having heard the hard-to-find Skellington and Droolian, his conversational asides, bold but not full-of-itself singing, and equally tender, softer takes when the material demands it must have seemed like a complete turnaround from the restrained My Nation Underground cuts. He handles all the guitar as well, with Skinner concentrating on bass and keyboards; guest Michael "Moon-Eye" Watts does some fine fretbending as well, including an amazing performance on the awesome "Safesurfer," a lengthy meditation on AIDS and its consequences. Picking out only some highlights does the album as a whole a disservice, but besides offering up an instant catchy pop single, "Beautiful Love," Cope handles everything from the minimal moods of "Promised Land" and experimentation of "Western Front 1992 CE" to the frenetic "Hanging Out and Hung Up on the Line" and commanding "Drive, She Said." An absolute, stone-cold rock classic, full stop.