The Teardrop Explodes were one of the most undeservedly overlooked bands of the early eighties. Their remarkable debut, Kilimanjaro (1980), has been reissued in a deluxe triple-disc set and is a wonderful reminder of just how great the group was.
Led by songwriter, vocalist, author and LSD advocate Julian Cope, The Teardrop Explodes came out of the same late-seventies Liverpool scene that spawned Echo And The Bunnymen, among others. In fact, the two groups were so closely related at that point that a song written by Cope and Echo vocalist Ian McCullough was released on both artists’ debuts. On Kilimanjaro the song is simply titled “Books,“ while on The Bunnymen’s debut, Crocodiles, it is called “Read It In Books.”
As interesting as that little factoid is, however, “Books” is actually one of the lesser tracks on Kilimanjaro. The album is so front loaded with superior material, is it really hard to believe they did not garner the type of attention they warranted. “Ha Ha I’m Drowning (In Your Love)” opens the record up with some great horn work and marvelously creative lyrics.
“Sleeping Gas” finds Cope repeating the line, “I just wander around, I just wander around,” and there is little doubt he was telling the truth. The brilliant U.K. hit single, “Treason” is next, and is one I just cannot say enough about. It is one of those songs that you can just listen to over and over, and never tire of.
Cope has never been shy about his enjoyment of drugs, although I think he has probably mellowed a bit by now. In any case, “Poppies In The Field” is sort of ambiguous lyrically about the subject: “The poppies are in the field, don’t ask me what that means.” It really doesn’t matter because the bass carries this tune so well while the pathos in Cope’s voice are intoxicating in their own right.
The only quoted lyrics on the package are from “Went Crazy”: “They told my friends it was a secret but it’s rumored that some of us went crazy.” Make of it what you will, but the eleven songs that make up this album are uniformly excellent. Kilimanjaro is absolutely one of my favorite eighties records.
This expanded edition is as full of extra goodies as one would imagine. Disc Two — Bates Motel consists of rare B-sides and early versions of Kilimanjaro tunes. There is some fascinating material including “Strange House In The Snow,” and a French version of “Treason” (“Traison”). The final of the thirteen tracks contained on this disc is a great live version of “Sleeping Gas.”
Disc Three — BBC Sessions is as described — live cuts recorded in the BBC studios. Highlights of the eleven cuts recorded 1979-1980 include versions of “Went Crazy,” “Poppies In The Field,” and “Ha Ha I’m Drowing.” The disc finishes with a nice obscurity from the era, “The Great Dominions.”
For fans like myself, all of these extras are a lot of fun. There are also some great commentaries from the principles in the accompanying booklet. But none of it tops Kilimanjaro itself. This is simply a brilliant record, and no fan of post-punk, neo-psychedelic British music should be without it.