The Teardrop Explodes were as important to me as The Jam. Equally painful was their split at the same time as The Jam. Except The Teardrop never received the respect, acclaim and attention that The Jam did. And this second album was not as appreciated as much as their (to me) flawless debut, Kilimanjaro, but over the years, it seems to have been the logical follow-up.
By the time Wilder was being put together and released in 1981, The Teardrop had changed in dynamic – it was no longer so much a “group” as it became Julian Cope’s (acid washed) vision. Guitarist Alan Gill had left after the release of the hit single, “Reward”; keyboardist/antagonist David Balfe had also been ousted.
The line-up at this point (pictured above) was Cope on vocals (dropping his bass playing role), Gary Dwyer on drums (the only other original member), Troy Tate on guitar (the same Troy Tate who later produced the original version of the first Smiths album), bass player Alfie Agius and keyboardist Jeff Hammer. This incarnation was together long enough to record the still-incredible single “Passionate Friend” before Cope dismissed Agius and Hammer and brought back Balfe. If you don’t already know, the song was written about Julie McCulloch, sister of Ian; Cope had been having a secret relationship with her and this was his open letter. “Passionate Friend” is just about perfect in every “pop” way and is one of the finest moments of the early ’80’s.
“Passionate Friend” was the highlight of this album, but there are several tracks that deserve their due. “The Culture Bunker” is a should-have-been-a-single standout; melodic, a sing-song chorus and some very wry/sly lyrics (allegedly aimed at The Bunnymen’s leader…); “Colours Fly Away” was a single and has a tension that builds – a sharp one-note, stinging guitar solo! “Bent Out Of Shape”, the album’s opener, is a bouncy slice of sarcasm and a positive way to open the proceedings. It’s the slower, more sombre songs that (I think) the listeners had a problem with. “Tiny Children” is a quiet, keyboard-soaked piece as is “…And The Fighting Takes Over”. The expectations were for more of the same as on Kilimanjaro – punchy, horn-section propelled, pop songs with hooks. This album has them, but it also shows Cope’s growing range and sense of free-for-all experimentation.
This “expanded edition” has the corresponding B-sides to Wilder‘s singles; it should be noted that unlike the 2000 re-release, this version DOES include “Christ Vs. Warhol”. It also contains the tracks released when The Teardrop split – the You Disappear From View e.p. (later compiled with other random tracks to create the posthumous Everybody Wants To Shag The Teardrop Explodes in 1990 – that being the original title for what became Kilimanjaro).
My one grievance is this – and maybe I’m splitting hairs – but if an album is being released as a “deluxe edition”, it should have “proper” packaging – UMD usually does a tri-fold with detailed artwork, a booklet with informative liner notes and a third disc. This isn’t the case here – a 2 disc, jewel case with a standard booklet. While there are BBC session tracks included, it would have been nice if some of the unreleased material from the Wilder sessions saw the light of day, such as the band’s version of The Zombies “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)”, which is listed on the original album’s sleeve or the band’s version of “Screaming Secrets” (later released by Cope on his Saint Julian album). In many ways, this release feels like an afterthought, but I’m a Cope/Teardrop aficionado and there would have been a completeness, had it been packaged properly. The one true gem included is in the liner notes – recollections by Cope, Tate and especially David Balfe, who, with clarity and precision, dissects this album in a fair and balanced way.
Nonetheless, Wilder is a fine album that matures like a wine; it stays with you long after the first listen and you wind up going back for more and more over time.