The intention behind Saint Julian was to create a ‘Rock God’ persona for failing artist Julian Cope, following his move to Island Records in 1986.
The album opens with ‘Trampoline’, a pop-rock track, complete with electric guitars, drum rolls aplenty and a simple lyrical message, ‘I can’t forget my trampoline’.
1983 was a big year for jumping, with both Van Halen and The Pointer Sisters releasing hits which referenced just how much fun jumping in all it’s forms could be. Writing ‘Trampoline’ would have seemed like a no-brainer, destined to be a sure-fire hit. It reached number thirty-one on the UK chart. The Irish loved it more, however, granting it a place at number twenty-two. Make of that what you will.
It’s hard to listen to this album and not think about it in the context of the time. Was this great music in 1986? Dotted around the release of Saint Julian and its singles, Madonna had two number ones (‘True Blue’ & ‘Papa Don’t Preach’), Diana Ross released ‘Chain Reaction’ and the Pet Shop Boys gave us ‘West End Girls’ – all great pop song. Unfortunately, nothing on Saint Julian comes close to classic status.
‘Planet Ride’ strays from the generic and often forced pop-rock formula and benefits from it. It’s the first song on the album that stands out – five tracks in.
‘World Shut Your Mouth’ delivers us another 80s cliché, singing about fashion. Interestingly, World Shut Your Mouth was Cope’s first studio album in 1983. He had clearly left a few crucial things unsaid that he wanted to address this time around.
‘Pulsar’ offers the listener lyrical gold, ‘I’ve been awake too long and I’m wondering why / I’ve had to sell my world for a piece of pie’. The guitar riff on this track is relentless, it really propels the song forward.
Rockers are not often thought of as profound thinkers. Perhaps this ‘Rock God’ persona that was developed by Cope’s manager and record company, following his shift from Mercury Records after poor sales, and this record work as some kind of concept album on the state of music at the time. But that may be over-thinking it.
This theory is further supported by ‘Crack In The Clouds’. It comes as a breath of fresh air, beginning as some of the best songs do with the building sound of thunder and rain pouring in the background. A capella sections segue into an eerie musical accompaniment, followed by pounding guitars that drop out again for more a cappella sections and eeriness. Think Queen’s flamboyance but on a downer and you might be on the right track. The album should have contained more of this.
The album is probably a product of wanting to make a success of a fresh start with a new record label. Cope was previously making less commercial music and rock was selling well at this time. The songs that stray from that formula are great, standing out further beside the generic stuff .
Go get it: ‘Crack In The Clouds’
Forget it: ‘Shot Down’ / ‘Eve’s Volcano’
Saint Julian is available from Amazon