Release Date: Mar 5, 2013
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Jangle Pop
This British singer-songwriter and psychedelic cult hero keeps issuing delightful, incisive rec ords, and this is one of his recent best – an album Syd Barrett might have made if he'd stayed cogent and seen the end of days. Love From London is 10 songs of chiming folk-rock grace and slippery black humor in which apocalypse falls gently, to spidery picking, in "Be Still," and with stately Beatlesque piano in "Stupefied." Hitchcock also evokes the radical-Seventies John Lennon with the crunchy contempt for thieving financiers in "Fix You." "Day breaks/Like an egg," Hitchcock warns in the closing "End of Time," but with the trippy reassuring tone of someone who plans to fully enjoy the time he has left. .
There seems to be something of a city-based theme running through Robyn Hitchcock’s recent work. His previous release was a paean to Oslo, specifically its bizarre Vigeland sculpture park; the title of his latest album explains the urban connection. Yet whereas the songs on Tromsø Kaptein – particularly the title track – were suffused with doomy Nordic sensibility and imagery, Love From London does little more than mention a few landmarks such as Primrose Hill and Telecom Tower.
Robyn Hitchcock may have just turned 60, but the former psyche-rocker – whose first taste of fame came with late-’70s outfit The Soft Boys, to whom Katrina And The Waves can trace their roots – is showing no signs of his advancing years with the release of his 19th studio album, Love From London. “Rock and roll is an old man’s game now,” he admits, “so I’m staying in it. ” But what is left to say after so many LPs (and so little mainstream recognition) over the years? In essence, Love From London often bears a course away from Hitchcock’s customary wit and wits, and instead proffers something altogether more politicized, taking aim at the media, economic woe, global warming and corporate responsibility – or lack thereof.
Robyn HitchcockLove From London(Yep Roc)Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) Whenever Robyn Hitchcock comes out with a new album – he’s been releasing them under his name since 1981, with the Soft Boys before that – it prompts reflection on how he has kept the eccentric-British-singer-songwriter tradition alive, carrying its torch with modest but steady success as his forbearers like Kevin Ayers have begun to pass. A new album is also another chance to realize that, to Hitchcock, the wistful psychedelia of John Lennon’s rock – the melancholy vocals, the mysterious lyrics, the densely layered and droning atmospherics interrupted by some guitar crunch, was not just a passing “mind game” but a peak moment of rock as psychological exploration. Hitchcock has kept that vision alive and vital.
After a career as illustrious as his, Robyn Hitchcock doesn’t have to prove anything anymore. Love From London is the newest of the prolific jangle-rocker’s solo endeavors, but he’s still not finished reinventing himself. The record is markedly different from his work with The Soft Boys and The Egyptians, but it’s undeniably Hitchcock the whole way through.
Amid all the fuss over David Bowie’s sudden emergence from hibernation, a new album by another eccentric sexagenarian tunesmith from London doesn’t seem likely to get all that much attention. In the case of Robyn Hitchcock’s Love from London, that’s understandable, but it’s a pity. Maybe Hitchcock should have taken ten years off, like Bowie, to build up a bit of anticipation.
2010's Propellor Time found Robyn Hitchcock basking in the anything-goes, notebook-clearing nature of largely minimalist offerings like Eye and I Often Dream of Trains, allowing the pop acumen of his recent work with the Venus 3 (Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, and Bill Rieflin), all of whom contributed, to beat the more abstract elements of the songs into submission. 2013's Love from London, recorded in an East London bedroom and released just days after Hitchcock's 60th birthday, retains some of its predecessor's penchant for wanderlust, but is altogether a much trippier beast, swapping out the acoustic foundation for a snappier pop/rock engine that harkens back to more propulsive outings like Element of Light and Fegmania! The piano-led, dirge-like "Harry's Song" starts things off on an ominous note, but it's a cloud that soon dissipates with the arrival of the playful and airy "Be Still" and the reliably absurd "Stupefied," both of which wouldn't have sounded out of place on 1988's Globe of Frogs. Love from London is at its best when the light and dark are forced to spend time together, as is the case on the album's two strongest cuts, the beautiful "Death & Love" and the heady, Flaming Lips-inspired, psych-pop closer "The End of Time.
A fellow concertgoer once explained to me why the world needs Robyn Hitchcock. “Somebody has to write all those Robyn Hitchcock songs,” he insisted, an explanation that implies a necessity for songs about drag queens named Elvis, men with lightbulb craniums, and enough creepy crawlies to make your spray can of Raid seem a laughably inadequate arsenal. But often lost in the common perception of Hitchcock as a silver-haired, quirky singer-philosopher with questionable taste in button-down shirts are his adept ear for radiant melodies and willingness to boldly bear the stamp of his impeccable musical influences — traits that make Love from London welcome correspondence, even if the news isn’t particularly pleasant.
Since forming The Soft Boys in the late 70s Robyn Hitchcock has remained a prolific song writer and recording artist. His 19th solo album Love from London features a bit of London, a lot of love and a giant green eye on the cover. That’s typical of Hitchcock’s music; sounds and themes that are familiar mixed with the surreal and unexpected. Such is the case with opener “Harry’s Song,” a piano driven piece of alt-rock in which “an albatross punctuates the sky” and “pterodactyls hang above the broken sea.” “I Love You” on the other hand is a straight forward love song, the only nod to surrealism being a line about invisible tendrils growing between us which, as anyone who has been in love knows, is exactly what happens.
The erstwhile Soft Boy’s latest solo outing is a brooding, politicised set. David Sheppard 2013 Turning 60 in March 2013, none-more-English singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock is surely about due for installation at national treasure-dom’s top table. Not that this, the erstwhile Soft Boy’s 19th solo outing, panders exclusively to Hitchcockian stereotype: specifically, Syd Barrett-via-Edward Lear neo-psych-rock whimsy, with a side order of Paisley Underground guitar swirl and chime.