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The Teardrop Explodes
Wilder (Reissue) Pete Redrup , July 1st, 2013 08:32

The Teardrop Explodes only released two albums before, well, exploding. Their debut Kilimanjaro was given a deluxe reissue in 2010, and now Wilder gets similar, if slightly less lavish, treatment.  This is a fairly typical package - original album, and a second disc of tracks from EPs and radio sessions with a live oddity (emphasis firmly on the odd) thrown in for good measure. 

Whereas  Kilimanjaro is a masterpiece that charms with its rough edges and never pauses for breath, Wilder sounds substantially more polished, moving from psychedelic pop to synth-based experimentation. Paradoxically, the slower songs are the highlights yet it could be argued they contribute to a lack of pace compared to its predecessor.

Wilder is the sound of Julian Cope on drugs. This does not make it a unique record, but his early puritanical phase had lasted until most of the way through the recording of Kilimanjaro, and by now he was making up for years of chemical sobriety. It's also the sound of Cope's relationship with Dave Balfe. Reading Cope's Head On, the first volume of his autobiography, you get the impression that they hated each other. The sleeve notes here (with pieces written by both parties) show a slightly different side to the story. No doubt there were creative tensions, but both are pretty complimentary about each other here - the respect they show isn't even grudging. Balfe's particularly excellent piece also gives great insight into the arranging and recording process in general.

Kilimanjaro is an album of material where the arrangements were developed onstage. Wilder, on the other hand, appears to have been mostly generated through experimentation (musical, as well as pharmacological) in the studio, and is laden with keyboards and synths. In this sense it's much more indicative of the direction Cope was to take with his solo material.

The album divides into several distinct styles. 'Bent Out Of Shape' is a great opening, built around a majestic bass groove and swaggering horns atop the enigmatic Cope lyrics that are a trademark of this album. Much of the album shares this style - the  bizarre and brilliant 'Seven Views Of Jerusalem', 'The Culture Bunker' and 'Like Leila Khaled Said'.  In the booklet  Balfe reveals the influence of Talking Heads / David Byrne and Brian Eno on his arrangements and his choice of a Prophet 5 synthesiser, and this sheds light on some of the interesting rhythms, particularly on 'Seven Views'.

More in the vein of Kilimanjaro are the shimmering pop of 'Passionate Friend' and 'The Culture Bunker', both singles.  'Pure Joy' and 'Falling Down Around Me' are forgettable, but everything else on the album is great.  Finally, we have the  slower synth epics that emerge towards the end, such as 'Tiny Children' and 'The Great Dominions'. These tracks are absolutely stunning.  The fact that this time the bonus material has its own CD (unlike the previous release) allows the album to end beautifully with this last song, one of Cope's finest.

The second disc is fascinating whilst not always satisfying. The final Teardrop Explodes release was an EP, You Disappear From View, from which all five songs appear here. The title track is a firm reminder that the 80s were not particularly cool, despite the nostalgia some people hold for the era. Many great artists produced their worst work in the middle of this decade, and no amount of dayglo socks and leg warmers can possibly make up for Lou Reed's Mistrial or Bowie's Never Let Me Down and the accompanying Glass Spider tour. 'You Disappear From View' is a perfect illustration of the horror - it's as if Cope and Balfe were covering 'Wham Rap'. The horns, so cool on 'Reward', are so overwhelmingly dreadful here. No doubt that's why the track is buried somewhere in the middle of the second disc here, having been preceded by three of the four vastly superior songs from the same single. It's not surprising Cope wanted to leave the Teardrops by this point.

It's not all bad, though. The other tracks from the EP are excellent, although perhaps more Balfe than Cope, musically at least. When this material and more was repackaged as the lost third album Everybody Wants To Shag The Teardrop Explodes in 1990, some of the music press excitedly claimed that the Teardrops had apparently 'invented rave music' back in 1982. This is clearly not true, but they were making good use of some of the synths and sequencers available at that time which went on to provide signature sounds for much electronic music years later.

'Christ Versus Warhol' lives up to the excellent title and 'Window Shopping For A New Crown Of Thorns' hints at the direction Cope would follow in his first two solo albums. 'East of The Equator' on the other hand is a  mediocre instrumental barely even of interest to completists. There's also a live version of 'Sleeping Gas' from the Club Zoo residence that is absolutely deranged, Cope spouting what Balfe refers to as "streams of unconsciousness" for nearly ten minutes. You get the strong sense of an audience who would have been doing everything in their power to avoid making eye contact with the drug-addled lunatic on the stage singing about his intention to savage them.

The disc ends with several BBC session recordings of tracks from Wilder that give an indication of how they sounded live, and the direction the LP could have taken. These are very welcome additions.

Balfe's sleeve notes confess that he thinks Wilder is not as good an album as Kilimanjaro. It might not have the urgent, cohesive tone of the first, but it's more varied, and more interesting, with several sublime songs that were the best The Teardrop Explodes would release. It's also representative of the path Cope would travel, and the new material on the second disc makes it a worthy upgrade for anyone with an older copy.