Tag Archives: Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock • Robyn Hitchcock [CD]

It’s been awhile since ROBYN HITCHCOCK put out a proper full-band album. Or at least, since he did one in the same spirit as his Egyptians-era albums of the mid to late ’80s. This one, cleverly titled Robyn Hitchcock, is a lot like those heralded albums such as Fegmania! and Globe of Frogs. Recorded in a short stint in Nashville, Robyn apparently decided it was time he unleashed a batch of songs on an untested group of musicians and see what happens. Luckily, the results are in and this 2017 release is available for us to hear for ourselves.

Having started his recording career as founding member of The Soft Boys, Hitchcock went solo for a couple of albums before, in 1985, putting together the Egyptians (really The Soft Boys minus one) and releasing Fegmania! The Byrdsy, Barretty band came up with some great arrangements of RH’s tunes, including “Egyptian Cream,” “My Wife and My Dead Wife” and the odd but good “The Man with the Lightbulb Head.” The band went on to do a handful of albums until, in the early ’90s, they disbanded and Hitchcock went on to pursue extra textures (within and without group settings) with varying results.

What I like about his new one—I still can’t believe he didn’t come up with a better title than Robyn Hitchcock—is that it recalls the Egyptians but adds some interesting vibes via pedal steel guitar (don’t get yer panties in a wad; it ain’t a country record!) and the sheer kismet of making music with a new group of people. At times the tunes feel like they were channeled through the Egyptians—or that the band, perhaps subconsciously, asked themselves, “what would the Egyptians do?” when approaching these songs. Definitely, “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” and “I Want to Tell You About What I Want” have that classic vibe. But a few, like “Virginia Woolf,” “Autumn Sunglasses” and “Raymond and the Wires” go that extra mile to reveal something different. Maybe it’s that pedal steel adding those swirly, stretchy, almost keyboardy soundscapes. Or even just the difference in the bass—Jon Estes has a different tone and approach to the instrument than Andy Metcalfe did. Whatever it is, if you’re a seasoned fan of RH&E then you’ll be pleased and even surprised at how good this album sounds. If you’re more attuned to Hitchcock’s post-Egyptians epoch then this will feel good, too. Robyn & Co. have given us a record that all of us Hitchcock fans can enjoy, and that’s pretty awesome. And one with a lot less insects crawling around.

3/5 (YepRoc YEP-2483, 2017)

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Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift • “Love Is a Drag” b/w “Life Is Change” [7″]

Hitchcock Swift Love Is a DragThere hasn’t been a lot of  activity in Robyn Hitchcock‘s discography in the last year or two, so his new 7″ single with Emma Swift is notable. “Love Is a Drag” is a moody dirge of a tune, the duo’s second outing on vinyl, primarily acoustic but with a sizable helping of atmospheric sounds to bring the point on home. The single was recorded earlier this year by Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and just released on Hitchcock & Swift’s Tiny Ghost label. I’m not normally a fan of low tempo balladry, but then Hitchcock wouldn’t share his authorship with anything as normal as what is commonly considered a ballad.

This slowpoke starts with a lone nylon stringed guitar, joined by Emma and an electric guitar somewhere off in the distance. Soon Robyn comes in along with a toy-sounding xylophone and by the time it gets to the chorus this song would make those with weak constitutions for depressing lyrics hastily pick up the needle and perhaps look for one attached to a syringe to bring them a little comfort. The attraction to this song for me is the atypical harmony these two singers bring to the chorus – partly because the girl is singing the lower part while the boy is handling the higher harmony. It kind of reminds me of Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” (from 1986’s Blood & Chocolate), though it is mercifully shorter and not nearly as psychotic. The B-side, “Life Is Change,” is almost a “part two” to the A-side, as if the chorus (“you robynhitchcock_emmaswift_300pxdon’t want to see that life is change” or “…life has changed”) is the reason why the antagonist of the first song has found himself the subject of this single in the first place. This tune starts off at a similarly lethargic energy level as it’s dark brethren but starts to pick up toward the end, and features a nice descending guitar line that sounds vaguely like something from a Beatles tune whose title is escaping me at the moment. (I’m sure I’ll come up with it eventually but I’m not gonna wait for it to happen before I put up this review. Meanwhile it’s gonna drive me crazy, so if you solve this mystery, please post a comment here. It’s not close enough to Christmas – nor healthy – for me to be going this insane over a silly little single.)

You can order the record directly from Robyn Hitchcock’s web site, and it comes with a download card so you can put the songs in your iTunes and carry them close to your soul. If you’re that brave.

3/5 (Tiny Ghost)

 

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