JULIAN COPE – “Reynard The Fox” (from the album Fried)
Simply put, “Reynard The Fox” is a foxhunting protest song which turns into a Christ allegory, then into a vision of rural middle England, then turns that vision into an image of onstage self-disembowellment, and then descends into crazed and surprisingly convincing hippie thrash-skronk. Naturally Julian Cope ended his live sets with it for years, often extending his fucked-up prog-pop fairytale for fifteen-plus minutes: on one notorious occasion his self-identification with Reynard went that bit too far and he carved open his chest with the mikestand. This-all may not sound like an ideal formula for great pop, but nevertheless “Reynard The Fox” is exactly that for its first three electrifying minutes, the screaming “Fried! Fried! Take it in the side!” hook one of the scariest and catchiest Cope’s ever penned. “Reynard” is the most explicit statement of a theme which runs through his music – that England, and especially the English countryside, is a wilder and more savage place than we generally suspect. It would be stretching things considerably too far to call Cope the Ted Hughes of pop, but certainly “Reynard”, on the surface acid-fuelled proto-crusty babble, taps something of that poet’s viscera and punch, the sense of opening up dark veins under England and letting something messy and vital flow out.