Each week, we take a retrospective look at albums we think are either criminally underrated or woefully overrated, and why they actually rock/suck.
When The Teardrop Explodes released their debut album Kilimanjaro in 1980, it was quickly and rightly hailed as a neo-psychedelic classic. And in true psychedelic fashion, singer/guitarist Julian Cope was under the influence of a brain-melting cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs when the band released Wilder one year later. The results of this saw the band trying out a wider variety of sounds, with many songs scrapping conventional structures altogether. ‘Tiny Children’ and ‘The Great Dominions’ are more powerful and emotive than anything off the group’s first album, despite being stripped down to little more than David Balfe’s keyboards and Cope’s voice, the strength of which enables it to be used as an extra instrument in songs like these.
Cope’s continued obsessions with the mysteries and politics of the Middle-East find themselves at the forefront of tracks like ‘Seven Views of Jerusalem’ and ‘Just Like Leila Khaled Said’, where tribal drums and Arabic-sounding guitar work give them a real taste of the far off lands in question and Cope’s cryptic but political lyrics add real substance to the fantastical sound-scapes.
The band also use their secret weapon of trumpets to great effect on this album. While not as focal as they were on the group’s debut, they add a tangible extra dimension on songs like ‘Colours Fly Away’ and ‘Passionate Friend’ – the latter being a simply stunning 3-minute pop song that deserved better things than the modest airplay it received at the time.
Cope’s cryptic persona is in full bloom on this effort too, singing mystifying lines like ‘Oh take me to the moon, it’s safe and I want to lie down’ behind funky bass pops and swirling guitar lines on ‘The Culture Bunker’, or during the percussive psychedelia of ‘Pure Joy’, when he informs us that ‘I’ve got a good car but it’s not a good car, it won’t take me to paradise for the day’. It’s more personal songs like these that locate a beating heart underneath all the enigma and LSD, which is quite telling of the album: It’s a matryoshka doll of an album where the more listens you give it, the richer and more brilliant it gets until you realise that it’s just as much of a psychedelic masterpiece as the album it followed.