Soundtrack of my Life: “Reward” by Teardrop Explodes

I have talked before about the joy a great brass section can bring to a dreary existence. It works time and time again- hence the popularity of songs like “Crazy in Love”, “Move On Up”, and the entire career of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (never underestimate or write off Herb Alpert). But among my all-time favourite trumpet blasts is the frantic and somewhat chaotic ones on Teardrop Explodes “Reward”, one of the great 80s singles too insane to fully comprehend. It didn’t help that Julian Cope, the band’s oddball leader, had discovered acid and… well. Let’s just say oddball was amped up one trillion times after that.

Cope at one time had been in a band with Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) and Pete Wylie (Wah!), but his eccentric behaviour and tyrannical running of the band made him difficult to like, even as a fan. His solo work would be at turns deliciously poppy and maddeningly obtuse. “Reward” is by far the best thing Cope has ever written as a songwriter. The blast of brass that opens the song is almost pure ecstasy. The lyrics are a hodgepodge of weird phrases and observances, but the opening line “Bless my cotton socks, I’m in the news!” is a delight, followed by ramblings about kings and princes and accepting rewards and arrogance having it. The horn section punctuates the song with ferocity and insanity, a beautiful sound raining through the fairly benign bass and keyboards. It’s nearly three minutes of Northern Soul greatness, never to be topped by the band.

Sheer joy, I tell you.


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