Cope and co's neo-psychedelic gem. Pure oddball pop that remains timeless...
Chris Jones 2007-10-19
Another of those albums that get dropped into the nether regions of any ‘all-time greatest’ list, Kilimanjaro also remains an oddity in any era. This band were born out of the same Liverpudlian Zoo records/Eric’s/Bill Drummond axis that spawned The Crucial Three which in turn spawned Echo And The Bunnymen, Wah! Heat and the Teardrops. It was also a band that, as anyone who’s read Julian Cope’s hilarious Head On will know, had some major personality clashes.
By the time Kilimanjaro was to be recorded original keyboardist Paul Simpson had been ousted and replaced with co-founder of Zoo records and producer, David Balfe (who was, with Bill Drummond, the album’s co-producer). Not only this but subsequently guitarist Mick Finkler fell victim to Cope’s power struggles and was replaced both in the band AND on the record by Alan Gill from another legendary Liverpool band, Dalek I Love You.
Kilimanjaro’s peppy horns, sweeping synthetic strings and trebly guitar sound unsettlingly ‘wrong’ when the whole thing kicks off with “Ha Ha I’m Drowning”. Cope’s lyrics seem both oblique and overly wordy, sung in a strangely English-Scott-Walker way. Yet by the time you get to the third track: the heady, anthemic single, "Treason", you’ve settled into this surreal mix as if all records should be made this way.
Like the rival Bunnymen, they’d used the neo-psychedelic template but whereas McCulloch’s crew used the Velvets and the Doors as their touchstones, Cope was also into Roky Erikson and krautrock. It also wasn’t insignificant that the sessions for this album were conducted on large quantities of hallucinogens. Also, whereas the Bunnymen specialised in powerhouse grooves and epic choruses the Teardrops had an innate gift for a poppy hook and beguiling melody. Side two’s love songs, “The Thief Of Baghdad” and “When I Dream”, put you in pure psych pop heaven. With this in mind it’s odd that their version of Ian McCulloch’s “Read It In Books” (here rendered as “Books”) is quite brutally minimalist.
Knowing how troubled was the genesis of Kilimanjaro it’s amazing that something so perfectly formed emerged. Like Love’s Forever Changes it inhabits a strange alternative universe that seems to have little relationship with contemporary sounds. For that reason alone it remains timeless.