Record Review: The Teardrop Explodes – Wilder

Mercury ‎| UK | CD | 2000 | 548 284-2

Mercury ‎| UK | CD | 2000 | 548 284-2

The Teardrop Explodes: Wilder UK CD [2000]

  1. Bent Out Of Shape
  2. Colours Fly Away
  3. Seven Views Of Jerusalem
  4. Pure Joy
  5. Falling Down Around Me
  6. The Culture Bunker
  7. Passionate Friend
  8. Tiny Children
  9. Like Leila Khaled Said
  10. …And The Fighting Takes Over
  11. The Great Dominions
  12. Window Shopping For A New Crown Of Thorns
  13. East Of The Equator
  14. Rachael Built A Steamboat
  15. You Disappear From View
  16. Suffocate
  17. Ouch Monkeys
  18. Soft Enough For You
  19. The In-Psychlopedia

Early last year, I happened across a copy of the debut album by The Teardrop Explodes in the used bins of Harvest Records, and having long desired a copy of “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” in my home, I bought it to general delight. Since it was sitting next to a copy of their second album, I made a mental note to pick that one up if the first one delighted. Since it did, late last year I bought their sophomore CD – also in a fine DLX RM – packed with bonus tracks; spuriously credited to a non-existant American mini-album this time.

teardrop-explodes-coloursflyawayuk7aI recall hearing “Bent Out Of Shape” on college radio at the time and liking it, albeit not as much as “Drowning.” The skittering rhythm that snaked through the song gave it an insouciant bounce that marked it as a missed single opportunity, to these ears. Instead, the second cut was a single; one I had indeed bought some time in 1981 in my failed attempt to but the song “Ha Ha I’m Drowning,” whose title I did not know at the time. Listening to it again after decades, I was reminded of the later period, horn driven sound of The Jam. It wouldn’t sound too out of place on “The Gift.”

the-teardrop-explodes-7viewsofjerusalemoz7aThe sublime afropop of “Seven Views Of Jerusalem” marked another missed single opportunity… except for in Australia, where the song was given a chance on the charts. The tune slots right next to Robert Palmer’s “Pride” on my mental iPod. The following “Pure Joy” once again harkened back to the stinging, sharp sound of The Jam ca. “Sound Affects.” The incisive guitars and thrilling tattoos of drums have a similar air of focused intensity.

the-teardrop-explodes-passionatefrienduk12a“Passionate Friend” was probably the first song to feature a sitar in at least 15 years. I recall my shock at hearing one the following year in John Foxx’s first recorded version of “Endlessly” but that’s only because I had not yet heard this song. The horns and sitar marked this one as an unabashed 60s pastiche; one that didn’t think twice about stealing the melody to “As Tears Go By” for a backing vocal line in the song’s outro.

teardrop-explodes-tinychildrenuk7aThe next song, “Tiny Children” made for an unlikely single since the delicate number was comprised of only Julian Cope’s sweet vocal touched with delicate synth washes and the barest hint of guitar until the song’s conclusion, when some drumbeats shockingly manifest. From here on out the closure of the album proper attains a dreamlike-vibe with “…and The Fighting Takes Over” and “The Great Dominions” attaining a closely matched, elegiac tone of contemplation.

The bonus tracks here were an eclectic lot with many strong songs exiled largely for reasons of sequencing and pacing. “Window Shopping For A New Crown Of thorns” was perhaps the least of these; a Velvet Underground pastiche that perhaps too strongly referenced “The Murder Mystery.” The long, winsome instrumental “East of the Equator” was spirited, but perhaps a minute longer than it needed to be.

Things got more interesting with the arty sea shanty “Rachael Built A Steamboat.” David Balfe was sole music composer with Cope strictly offering lyrics, but the methodical composition pulled me in effectively. The provocatively titled “Christ vs Warhol,” the B-side to “Passionate Friend,” was conspicuously absent here. For some strange reason, it has only made the CD format in a 2004 Japanese re-issue of the third Teardrop Explodes album, “Everyone Wants To Shag.”

teardrop-explodes-youdisappearfromviewuk2x7aThe rest of the bonus tracks date from the 1983 posthumous EP “You Disappear From View.” The five songs here included the atypical A-side with the slap-bass funk of the title track reminding me of nothing so much as the group Modern Romance! Fortunately, the rest of the tracks from that EP were much better. “Suffocate” had a studied dignity and “Ouch Monkeys” strongly reminded me of some of Trevor Horn’s production gambits from the first Buggles album with Copes vocals filtered over insect-like rhythm box chirps.

The closer “The In-Psychlopedia,” was like nothing else the band had offered previously. The jerky, pixilated rhythms were unlike anything in the Teardrop Explodes canon, while the synthesized jaw harp make for an amphetamine-fueled technopop experience like little before or since. The only thread of continuity were Cope’s vocals, which were like anything I’d heard from Julian’s solo pop period, which I used to try to keep up with. Ultimately, both Teardrop Explodes albums make for an exciting sidestep to the major trends that were cutting a swath through the UK during the ’79-81 period. Most of this music mixed pop and art approaches for a robust, yet surprisingly unpopular sound. Both albums sold silver in the UK, but “Reward” was their only top ten UK single. A shame, since The teardrop Explodes were definitely plowing their own furrow in this time period, with fecund results.

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3 Responses to Record Review: The Teardrop Explodes – Wilder

  1. Echorich says:

    By Wilder, Cope should have renamed the band The Teardrop Implodes…as a title though, Wilder is pretty spot on. The stories of the recording of the sophomore release and the constant paring down of the band to at one point just Cope and one other member is reflected in some of the rather gutsy directions the songs take. I have to figure that when Phonogram got the album they were puzzled at how to make it work in the “wild.”
    Colours Fly Away is obviously a “band” song and has the most sonic connection to Kilimanjaro, but like most of the album, it seems a bit more angst-y than the debut. I get your comparison to late period Jam, Monk, but I think the song still has a very unmistakeable Liverpudlian Post Punk sound.
    The real gem on Wilder is The Culture Bunker. It has all of the band’s best tropes. It even reflects on the mythology surrounding the band by referring to The Crucial Three.
    Back in the 80s I would end any mixtape of Liverpool Scene bands with Wilder’s closing track The Great Dominions. It may be the most tender, personal song Cope ever wrote.


    • bpdp3 says:

      I never gave ‘Wilder’ the attention it deserved. It seems unfair to say it’s not as immediate as the debut, but well…

      But there, buried at the end of side two, stands ‘the great dominions’. Took me awhile to find it. You could be clutching a screaming baby and a ticking bomb in a burning apartment and I think time would stand still as soon as this song came on. It has that kind of calming effect.

      They could’ve easily butchered this with too much production but they kept it so damn sparse. Thank god. I’ve played this several times and had people ask ‘say, what is this?’ I predict that if you played this in any college dorm room today, at least five kids would Shazam it.


  2. SimonH says:

    Wilder is a very special album for me, it came along just at the right time to soundtrack a decent portion of my teenage angst period and seemed to fit perfectly. I can still remember listening to …And the Fighting Takes Over as snow was falling outside my window, wallowing in those teenage feelings:) Thankfully it’s a great enough album that I can still listen and love it now.
    It also pushed me into getting my parents to allow me to attend my first ever gig, when the band toured in January 1982, and that was amazing as well!


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