Robyn Hitchcock - Robyn Hitchcock

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2017-04-21

America is being ruled by a creature with tiny hands and a bad case of Psychosis for a hairdresser. Facts have become as nebulous and elusive as jellyfish. The crumbling vestiges of what once considered itself Western civilization, is staring at its smart phone with one foot in the ecological grave. To top it all off, all our musical heroes are dead or not feeling too well. Despair not.There is an antidote. A new Robyn Hitchcock album. And it is pure joy to these ears.

His self-titled 21st album begins by begging the immortal question, “Who can spurt blood first into the mouths of our cannibal overlords?” ‘I Want To Tell You About What I Want’ is a vital kick off to a catchy, vibrant album. Among the many things he wants, is emotional telepathy and it better happen soon “before the feline dynasty scampers over history”.

As a longtime dedicated fan, I’ll be the first to tell you, Hitchcock has never released a bad album. True, some are more adored than others. Groovy Decay is more like a neglected step child while Element of Light has always been the pretty, popular one. His last release, The Man Upstairs was a hermetic, stripped down affair, with a focus on off the wall covers. This latest effort however, is positively brimming with fresh material. The ghosts of Virginia Wolf, Sylvia Plath and Percy Bysshe Shelly haunt the halls as Hitchcock excavates life’s emotional boneyard, unearthing universal truths.

‘Virginia Woolf’ tackles depression and hopelessness with perversely defiant optimism. “Sometimes you feel what you don’t want to feel,” he laments. Elsewhere, ‘Pray When I Drunk’ skewers religious conviction, acid tongue firmly in cheek. Warning: Not only is the subject matter mentally unstable, both are catchy as hell.

My vote for new Hitchcock classic is the shimmering, irresistible, ‘Shelly’s Letterbox.’ A song which ruminates over lost love, searching for answers. “Oh God, you were beautiful”, Hitchcock enthuses. And in the end, that seems to be all that matters. And all you can really hold on to.  

‘Sayonara Judge’ is a stunning middle finger to those who delight in casting aspersions. Hitchcock’s hypnotic guitar work and backing slide guitar in gorgeous harmony. It’s a reflective number that hints at personal loss. Of leaving yesterday behind for an uncertain future. Of throwing caution to the wind and to hell with any detractors. “Sayonara, I’m a loser,” he admits. Before adding the caveat, “But I’m walking on air.” It’s one of the most moving tracks on the album. Hitchcock, laying it all on the line with, “I won’t wait for the sentence”.

One doesn’t have to be hip to the BBC series to be in on the joke of, “Detective Mindhorn.' “Every episode is true and it sticks to you like glue”, Hitchcock insists. “Everybody is guilty until their innocence is proved.” A punchline that takes no prisoners.

Things take a turn toward the more oblique on the haunting ‘1970 In Aspic’ while, ‘Raymond And The Wires’ is uncharacteristically autobiographical. A touching ode to Hitchcock’s late father. Neither of which prepares you for the mesmerizing delight of ‘Autumn Sunglasses’. Melodic and mysterious, it’s another album standout. Classic Hitchcock.

Before you know it, we’re dropped off at the ‘Time Coast’. A magnificent send off to a deeply satisfying listen. “Some people will destroy you in order to survive”, Hitchcock quips. “I’m singing to the ruins, I’m singing through the past, I’m singing like a fossil; time goes by so fast.” And my, how time flies by on this one. So much so, you waste little more of it hitting the play button again. 

While, I Often Dream of Trains and Eye shall forever remain enshrined as stunning raids on the inarticulate, Robyn Hitchcock’s latest hat trick is oddly straightforward. It’s a full studio album, as opposed to many of his stripped down acoustic affairs. In terms of production and mood, this one falls somewhere in between Jewels For Sophia and Ole Tarantula. But every Hitchcock record is a world unto itself and this is one well worth exploring. In fact, you may never want to leave.

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars