Album review

Robyn Hitchcock

If you are not a fan of Robyn Hitchcock: I totally get it. With a career spanning 40 years, the 60 year old singer/songwriter has eluded mainstream success unlike many Syd Barretts of his ilk, but retained a cult following, which in my experience, normally means whatever it is describing is crap, but there are moments in new record, Love From London, that demonstrate why the melancholic, psychedelic pensioner has endured.

Lead track, the beautifully lingering piano-led ‘Harry’s Song’, is reminiscent of any Tom Waits track from the 90s, with a trippy production from any Mercury Rev from the 90s, and lyrics that go from the dramatic, “Nothing tortures you like how it could have been,” to the very dramatic: “I don’t know anything about you anymore.”

And while this last line might not seem overly dramatic, it is loudly whispered throughout the track in the same way his vocal sound-a-like contemporary Neil Young has the same penchant for repeating things until you wish he would stop. ‘Be Still’ follows with a remarkably upbeat guitar and rhythmic drum beat that contrast Hitchcock’s darker lyrical characterisations, an enjoyable recurring theme throughout
the record. ‘Death & Love’, a highlight of the record, is also its most psychedelic, with a floaty synthy production offset by harmonizing vocals and a piercing George Harrison style guitar outro reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper era Beatles.

‘Fix You’ is another highlight. It features a bigger sonic shift from the Harvest Moon hippy nicety and passive aggression to that of a biting and spiteful Gary Numan cut from the late 80s. A distorted guitar melds with a thumping drum and a siren, for this modern- day 80s inspired Hot Chip-esqu tirade against the current financial crisis. Hitchcock sneers “Now that you’re broke, who is gonna fix you?” There is a lot going on this record. It has something for everyone. But in doing so, it seems more like a collection of some really good songs and some ok songs instead of a coherent album.

While this may not be the one that propels Hitchcock into the mainstream, it is certainly enjoyable, and is surely something to increase the size of his cult following by at least one or two.