Friday, November 15, 2013

OCD Chronicles: Julian Cope - "Fear Loves This Place"

So, several years ago-we’re talking a time when I was married to another and living in a community that was several hours away-I was in Iowa City for whatever reason and noticed a piece on the local news about a record store that had fallen on hard times and was preparing to close. I believe the store was called Rock n Bach, or something to that effect, and I made the decision to make a slight detour to the north and hit Cedar Rapids where the store was located.

It was easy enough to find, but reeked of slow death the moment that we entered into the store. It was like a funeral wake inside, no music playing, the windows covered with the obligatory “going out of business” signs and the faded posters of new releases from years ago. “Everything must go” the signs declared, but we had entered during a time when it probably should have been updated to “No really, everything must go! Take this shit too!” since the bins were picked clean of the good scores.

As a dutiful record shopper, I needed to make the trip worthwhile-so I proceeded to dig in, looking for anything worth buying.

Throughout the search, I could overhear a number of people going up to the owner, who made no real attempt to leave his chair behind the counter, unless it was to run the cash register-asking him what his plans were, how sorry they were the store was closing, and speaking of the general realities that record stores were having a tough time adjusting to the approaching millennium. In other words, this would have been around the time when the Internet was starting to take off, making such passive record stores like Rock ‘n Bach struggle with the notion that they actually needed to work for their supper.

Each customer would share a story about how much record stores mean to this, while placing their purchases on the counter, almost appearing embarrassed by the fact that they were too cheap that they didn't come in sooner when their shit was full priced.

Who knows. Maybe it was the owner's fault that he couldn't make it work, or maybe he just didn't feel like trying anymore.

I’m not suggesting that the dude would have even survived in a horrifically competitive environment, particularly since up the road there was a Best Buy that probably undercut his stock by two or three bucks a pop. I’m just saying that I wasn’t surprised that the place was closing its doors, based on my experience and bearing witness to the general malaise of the owner during its final days of operation.

It looked to me like he was ready to move on.

I did find an e.p. from The Fall on the cheap and a bootleg cassette of some Phish show that I had attended years before, but the real find came with a Julian Cope picture disc from the Jehovahkill record, marked down to better than a steal.

For years, I treated the limited edition disc with kid gloves, barely playing it, attentive to the reality that the jacket was also becoming a little loosey-goosey. But fairly recently, I began listening to the 45 rpm 12” for reasons that can only be described as “It’s been a while since I listened to some Julian Cope.”

To hear Cope nowadays is nothing short of a chore; his catalog is littered with pretentious meanderings that try to channel a certain amount of revolutionary jive while sounding more like a fried (ha!) geezer with a home studio and a bone to pick with institutions that have long-since become irrelevant.

While we do indeed need people like Cope on our planet, we don’t need them to release records every fucking year, especially considering how most of these releases could have been created by practically anyone with a modicum of talent and a personal vendetta.

There was a period-maybe two-in which Cope was faced with the enviable role of having a fairly large amount of notoriety and a head full of ideas, and the results were delightful. For all of its mass (it’s a double, which in the cd era borders on tedium) Cope’s 1992 release Jehovahkill is perhaps Saint Julian’s last bit of required listening. Once the record’s polarizing take on religion was released, his label suddenly determined that their artist would not “play by the rules” and promptly dropped him.

From there, Cope’s decent into indulgence was the only constant of his catalog. His literary works did a great job of highlighting the man’s other talents (he is an incredible wordsmith) and preoccupations, but gone were the days of the man toying with the pop model with just a hint of acid casualty underneath the commercial sheen. I mean, say what you will about the man’s mental state, but Fried at its core is chocked full of pop sensibility; “Bill Drummond Said” may be the world’s most perfect pop song about a pathetic music-biz type since the Stones’ “The Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” and that shit was delegated to the b-side.

By ’92, Cope was still on the radar enough that his label offered him a certain amount of autonomy, and he repaid them with a two-fer study on the perils of religion. The record misses the full-band treatment of his earlier catalog, and it’s noticeable. Particularly with “Fear Loves This Place,” the only single from Jehovakill. It’s sparse and filled with very minimalist arrangements. Cope belittles Guns ‘n Roses on the back cover in a well-written if not poorly channeled attack on the Guns’ bad-boy image, but the reality is that “Fear Loves This Place” could have had some massive potential had he brought just a third of Slash’s tone to the proceedings, propelling the track into the stratosphere where it’s impact would have been greater.

Instead, the song relies on Cope’s own vocal mojo to bring it almost to fruition. “We’re living one hell of a heaven” he sarcastically bellows, before belting out the next line “Deliver one world at one take” with even more moxie. He harmonizes with himself before giving the money shot of his song title. Cope lowers his voice during some moments, barely a whisper on some lines, complete with the sound of him breathing in to dramatic effect.

There is one line in the song-right before the final chorus-that gets me every fucking time: “O Lord, it’s coming to….me tonight/Peaceful the knives….inside me STTIIIILLLLL!!” The swell of his delivery is transcendent, and I’m seriously getting goosebumps just talking about it.

Julian now performs the song, as he does with most of his material, solo. As in, he gets on stage with a guitar, tells a few long-winded stories, and obediently fleshes out a set list with fan favorites and whatever kick he’s feeling. He doesn’t take kindly to talkers, drunks and hecklers-not that he should, by any means, but the shows seem to have become more of a lecture than a rock and roll show, and that’s kind of a shame considering how dangerous this man could be in front of an audience.

I’m not asking that he cut himself open like he was notorious for, but it would be nice to have Cope recognize the power of his material and to suppress his ego the extent where he forces himself to interact with other musicians to fully unleash the strength of what are some truly remarkable songs.

With that being said, I’m so grateful that he hasn’t turned into the shell (ha!-see previous one for the Easter Egg gift) of a figure that one of his biggest rivals-Ian McCulloch-has become.

Anyways, the tune in question is below, and it has completely overtaken me this week as I had to go to my Hematologist to see if I had cancer. So yeah, fear knows this place.

That's why they made a "Reflection Room" in the medical pavilion.

Here's a shot:

That's a waterfall back there. The kind TLC told you not to chase.

And no, I don't have cancer.


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