Sunday, January 3, 2010
The most consistently great artist of my lifetime, Robyn Hitchcock, has had his website re-jigged, re-made, and re-modelled. The Museum of Robyn Hitchcock seems to be having a soft opening; there's still areas under construction, but there's two free unreleased songs here if ya wanna hand over some kind of letters/and or numbers that resemble an e-mail address.
When I was still a young pup, I was reading about this unusual character named Robyn Hitchcock in Creem magazine. I'd never heard his music. The writers' descriptions of his songs were confusing, but also intriguing. He writes songs about sex, death, and fish? He plays guitar in a un-rock star-like way, is neither entirely bizarre nor even momentarily mundane, employs what seem to be non-sequiteurs one minute and lyrical genius the next?
But I couldn't find any of his records anywhere in my little burg. After searching aimlessly and receiving blank stares from record shop clerks (remember those?), I somehow stumbled upon a copy of Fegmania! in a place called Kelly's on Portage Avenue. I spent most of my Christmas gift cash on it, and I was hooked ever since. To me, Fegmania! remains the consummate Hitchcock album. Egyptian Cream told a dreamy tale of a woman who grows "hair all over her skin" and "When they told her ,"You're pregnant," she threw up her hands/ And thousands of fingers grew out of the sand". My Wife and My Dead Wife" is a perfect pop tune, with a spooky synth line, requisite chiming and ringing guitars, pretty harmonies, and a wry tale about a man and his live wife and his deceased one: "My dead wife's upstairs, she's still wearing flares." The Man With the Lighbulb Head uses a vaguely Eastern-sounding guitar and rhythm section and features Robyn imitating a squeaky-kid voice - "Daddy, it's the man with the lightbulb head!" Insect Mother utilizes percolating synth and Robyn's trademark cyclical jangly guitar to propel lyrics such as "In velvet and in onions you will soon be mine". The Fly continues the bug theme with a tapping glass pulse, buzzing six-strings, and a surprisingly child-like string of words. Heaven marries an insistent beat with a slightly accordian-sounding, spooky keyboard sound, welded together with beautiful chorus harmonies and joyfully curious vocals telling the listener, "You've got arms, you've got legs, you've got heaven" (Robyn's called it a floating cathedral prairie song in a live setting).
The Man With the Lightbulb Head
My Wife and My Dead Wife
One of my most anticipated releases of the new year is Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3's Propellor Time on Yep Roc (March 10th , to be precise). I haven't been able to afford I Often Dream of Trains in New York (I bought the original twice) or the box sets Luminous Grooves and I Wanna Go Backwards (again, I already own the original albums...), but every proper Hitchcock album is full of unique guitar work, distinctive lyrics and vocal melodies - I can't wait.
Here's a few samples of his greatness. From the fairly-straightforward rock-goes-pop with Hitchcockian whimsy and sublime harmonies of Adventure Rocketship, to the fragile beauty of Glass Hotel, over to he Beatles-meets-Byrds-meets-Velvet Underground groove of I'm Falling, and back to the delicate, melancholy sounds of I Often Dream of Trains.
Hitchcock is also an exceptional visual artist. Some of his work has graced album covers, but others haven't been seen very widely. Here's some samples courtesy of the Museum of Robyn Hitchcock. They reflect his artsistic sensibilities and offbeat sense of humour very neatly.
Hooded One in New York
Black Skier Unsettles Nude Caucasians