Robyn Hitchcock : Love From London


Like a pirate winking behind his eye patch, it’s hard to tell when Robyn Hitchcock is pulling your leg. Over the course of a career spanning nearly four decades, this visionary Brit wit has carved out a musical path that is purely unique. His work exists in a realm all its own, largely defying comparison to any other songwriter’s work.

Hitchcock’s career began in 1976 with the Soft Boys, an artsy punk band fueled by youthful energy and wildly adventurous musical chops far beyond the likes of their contemporaries. His music softened slightly after the dissolution of the Soft Boys, though some of the band members continued to be frequent contributors to Hitchcock’s solo recordings and live performances. He is the rare artist who found his niche at a very young age and the Hitchcock songwriting formula has largely been in place since his earliest days as a performer.

Drawn from a seemingly endless supply of weird wisdom, Hitchcock’s world is built upon a foundation of surrealist fables inhabited by insects, fruit, plants, birds, countless and inanimate but highly anthropomorphized objects. Clever pop confections heavily influenced by the British Invasion and Captain Beefheart’s bad trip perambulations, superimposed with a dry deadpan vocal delivery, Hitchcock’s cynical riddles are embedded in a sweet candy coating. Once-rampant Syd Barrett comparisons have cooled and settled into just another small piece in the larger puzzle of Hitchcock’s broad spectrum of influences, an accurate list of which would have to include an equal number of painters and philosophers as it would songwriters and musicians. Akin to cubism, Hitchcock’s self-described “paintings you can listen to” often set a scene via imagery simultaneously refracted from multiple angles.

Ominous piano cadences usher in the heartbeat pulse of “Harry’s Song”, the first track on Hitchcock’s new album Love From London. This portrait of our protagonist finds him staring at the sea and contemplating “the albatross that punctuates the sky… Pterodactyls used to hang there.” Whether couching a caustic one-liner under a gloomy groove or singing dark lyrics to a happy melody, Hitchcock has always been a master of juxtaposing light and shade. This gift for wry contrast is exemplified on “Be Still” wherein Hitchcock joyfully chimes, “Be still… Let the darkness fall upon you!” He does it again in the fiendish “Devil On A String” with the admonishment “Salvation pie, salvation pie / You gotta get a slice before you die.” Hitchcock’s breathy and feather-sensitive vocals occasionally harden into a low growling snarl. He’ll bare his teeth from time to time for a driving rocker like “Fix You”, but somehow it all retains an air of ghostly comical and ruminative romanticism.

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