The Teardrop Explodes - Wilder

by Andy Brown Rating:7.5 Release Date:2013-06-24

The Teardrop Explodes began life in Liverpool in 1979 and, among their achievements, were responsible for introducing the world to the genius of Julian Cope. At 55-years-old, Julian Cope is now an established and well respected musician, author and musicologist. He's the perennial outsider figure, dressed head-to-toe in leathers with a book on Neolithic culture under one arm and an obscure, psychedelic record under the other. Without wishing to reduce my enthusiasm for the man's work to the kind of term usually reserved for a friend that gets an extra round at the pub, I have to admit that Cope is an absolute legend.

Wilder was originally released in '81 and followed on from the band's 1980 debut album, Kilimanjaro. In many ways it continued along similar lines with upbeat melodies, trumpets and neo-psychedelic tendencies. Yet despite the seemingly accessible nature of the bands work (and Cope's unique vision) The Teardrop Explodes were destined for a relatively short career.

Wilder was to be the bands second and last album (if you discount the third 'lost' album that saw the light of day about eight years after the bands demise). Not that the inter-band tensions (reportedly at there worst between Cope and keyboardist David Balfe) affected the bands knack for an optimistic melody. Songs like 'Bent Out of Shape' and the brief but glorious 'Pure Joy' sound as light-footed and care free as anything from their sprightly debut.

The band's influence has exceeded their output and many will still become starry eyed at the mere mention of their short-lived but golden career. Some of Wilder shows where Blur picked up a few tricks. Maybe it's no coincidence that Teardrop's David Balfe set up Food Records, which signed the fledgling band. Yet Blur has never sung songs quite like 'Seven Views of Jerusalem' or 'Like Leila Khaled Said'.

Leila Khaled is a controversial, left-wing revolutionary figure who hit the headlines in 1969 for highjacking a plane. She's also a figure that Cope has returned to on his most recent solo effort, Psychedelic Revolution. Cope has always followed his own path and his irrepressible eccentricity perhaps explains why Liverpudlian contemporary (and one time bandmate) Ian McCulloch and his band Echo & the Bunnymen found international stardom in place of Cope's cult appeal.

Cope's social and political awareness coupled with a natural flair for a decent lyrical turn-of-phrase helped The Teardrop Explodes stand out from the crowd. And while the music is certainly more of its time (80s indie vibes aplenty), it's far from pedestrian. Just try and resist the gorgeous pop-perfection of tracks like 'Passionate Friend' and 'Bent Out of Shape', or the way 'Tiny Children' sends chills up the spine like Joy Divisions ever-haunting 'Atmosphere'.

The songs still stand today and while Cope has moved on he hasn't completely disregarded his beginnings in The Teardrop Explodes. I saw Cope perform the album's closing track, 'The Great Dominions', only last year. It's still an incredibly beautiful moment when Cope sings the songs central refrain, "Mommy, I've been fighting again", over the songs lilting, melancholic melody.

This reissue contains an extra disc of B-sides and radio sessions which makes the whole package pretty definitive. Yet despite Wilder's melodic charms, youthful naivety and unrestrained enthusiasm, this was merely the starting point for Saint Julian's impressive career. Dizzy highs are frequent in Cope's back-catalogue, but I'd wholeheartedly recommend that you go and listen to '91 album Peggy Suicide and 2008 album Black Sheep.

Having signposted these particular releases I feel I should say that there isn't much Cope does that isn't worth investing in. If you want a taste of what Cope is up to these days, why not check out his upcoming new album, the provocatively titled Revolutionary Suicide. I've said it once but it's worth repeating, the man's an absolute legend.

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