With the recent release of a new Soft Boys disc, Nextdoorland, it was probably inevitable that I’d return to Fegmania (1985), my favorite Robyn Hitchcock solo work. Billed as “Robyn Hitchcock and Egyptians” (which also included former Soft Boys bassist Andy Metcalf and drummer Morris Windsor – SBoys guitarist Kimberly Rew being busy w./ Katrina and the Waves during this period), the disc is arguably the best set of pop psychedelia that Hitchcock’s created. Where much of Hitchcock’s dadaist lyrical bent produces little more than interesting sounding non-sequitars, in Fegmania, it all seems to cohere: even if the album’s ultimate themes are only clear in the songwriters’s head. Credit the still-tight bandly playing of Metcalf & Windsor for keeping the whole shmear from turning into a solipsistic acoustic mess.
The disc opens strongly with “Egyptian Cream” (proto-Cream harmonies in a song about something vaguely sexual and menacing) then moves through some tunes about shifting identities toward the disc’s first undisputed straightforward classic, “My Wife & My Dead Wife,” a male take on Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands done with wit (“My dead wife’s upstairs/She’s still wearing flairs”), verve and a slyly ghoulish organ backing. Other highlights include: “The Man With The Lightbulb Head,” with its sitar-like guitar, backwards tape sounds and goofy spoken interlude; “Insect Mother,” one of those songs that Hitchcock likes to write that blends human and creepycrawly behavior; the zydeco-tinged “Strawberry Mind” and one of the most affirming songs that Robyn has ever written, vinyl release finale “Heaven.” On CD, this was followed by a nicely respectful cover of the Byrds’ “Bells of Rhymney,” along w./ two lesser numbers that neither add nor detract from the main Fegmania.
Rhino’s release of this disc comes with live and demo versions of “Cream,” “Mother,” and “Heaven.” It ends with a ten-minute instrumental, “The Pit of Souls,” which sounds like a lost track from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. Strangely apt, think I. “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” is the precisely the type of title Hitchcock could’ve concocted.