(The Gadabout Challenge: Let’s see if I can complete the following review without once using the word “eccentric” or referring to the M.I.A. Syd Barrett, shall we?)
Can’t help noting that Spooked (Yep Roc) is about an apt a title for a Robyn Hitchcock album as you could ask for. With his penchant for willfully eccen. . . strange lyrics about the natural (think “Bass,” “Insect Mother”) and supernatural (think “My Wife And My Dead Wife”), not to mention his more dadaist psychedelic conceits, the once and future Soft Boy has long trafficked in pop that, if not spooky, can often be lyrically disorienting. His newest release, a musical collaboration with folk country artists Gillian Welch & David Rawlings (with a couple guest visits by cult perennial and bassist Joey Stampinato), is in the subdued predominately acoustic mode of earlier releases like I Often Dream of Trains or the Eye demos. And though I personally prefer Hitchcock when he’s playing with a full contingent like the Soft Boys or the Egyptians, the disc still has its moments of Hitchcockian splendor.
“The party’s over; the drugs have taken themselves,” he sings in “Song.” Between this and his sweetly doleful cover of Dylan’s “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” (smart slivers of harmony from Gillian Welch on this cut), there are hints of a growing maturity on Spooked that may be at odds with the throwaway wackiness that’s long been a ready part of his arsenal (spoken track “Welcome to Earth” is noticeably flat, while “English Girl” holds its tossed-off rhymes to undue listener scrutiny). But with Welch & Rawlings providing tidy support on tracks like the dobro-driven “If You Know,” Spooked has enough doses of Syd Bar. . . weirdo lyricism to satisfy longtime admirers of the nasally British songwriter. A fine, if slightly tentative, Robyn Hitchcock release, in other words, that promises more in the years to come.
Shine on, you crazy eccentric, you. . . Powered by Sidelines