Release Date: Apr 21, 2017
Record label: Yep Roc
Witty, moving and seriously catchy, Robyn Hitchcock is a glorious return for a man who wasn't really gone in the first place. The madcap Brit has been making brain-teasing albums for nearly four decades (!), first as a member of the Soft Boys and then on his own, turning out plentiful gems along the way. With someone so prolific--Hitchcock's latest is his 21st studio outing, not counting his live albums and rarities compilations--creative lulls are inevitable.
After more than 35 years as a solo artist (following a handful of years as a member of the neo-psychedelic outfit the Soft Boys), Robyn Hitchcock has foisted his very first self-titled solo album on the world. Despite the somewhat odd move, it's also rather fitting as Robyn Hitchcock works nicely as a primer on the work of this longtime cult artist who has never received proper recognition as a supremely talented musical visionary. Described by Hitchcock himself as "an ecstatic work of negativity", this 21st solo album brings together the various facets of the artist's musical personality—with all the creepy, surreal imagery he's known for—while kicking the energy level up a notch, thanks to a terrific roster of musicians and a somewhat back-to-basics framework of twin guitars, bass, drums, and vocal harmonies.
Eponymous albums usually herald a debut or a stylistic sea change. Robyn Hitchcock's 22nd studio LP is neither, but it embraces elements of both. Recorded in Nashville with pop sorcerer Brendan Benson, it's a distillation of the 64-year-old surrealist's entire career, and easily his most vibrant collection of new music since the early 1990s -- his last outing, 2014's Man Upstairs, saw Hitchcock delivering an enjoyable, yet relatively amorphous set of half-covers/half-originals under the tutelage of the great Joe Boyd.
Show of hands … who has heard all of Robyn Hitchcock's previous 20 solo albums, plus numerous B-sides/rarities/EPs and singles, not to mention his early work with the Soft Boys and seen the two documentaries on him? Okay, that's a rhetorical question, but it shows just how vast and sprawling the U. K. singer-songwriter's swath is that even those that consider themselves fans probably can't keep track of Hitchcock's voluminous output for a variety of major and indie imprints over his four decade and counting career.
Nobody sings 'strange' quite like Robyn Hitchcock, and nobody sings strange quite like him either. Britain's foremost purveyor of post-psychedelic surrealism has managed to maintain an extraordinary and long career, from his early days with the Soft Boys to this, his twenty-first album. This time round, Hitchcock is produced by Brendan Benson and joined by the likes of Gillian Welch and Grant Lee Buffalo.
Twenty-one albums into a 36-year solo career, Robyn Hitchcock commands an enviable degree of respect specifically by offsetting a potentially burdensome "heritage artist" longevity with the ability to consistently deliver fresh and beguiling compositions. It's not so much that Robyn Hitchcock (the album) resonates with sonic surprise: its default paradigm of dense, shimmering neo-psychedelia is a home comfort that has sustained Hitchcock from The Soft Boys onwards. It's more the fact that the bendy mirror through which he refracts experience offers a sharper view year upon year.
Although its creator describes this new record as "an ecstatic work of negativity," it is always a positive thing when a new Robyn Hitchcock album appears in the universe. Returning to an electric "rock band" set-up, with new home Nashville definitely an influence on the sound, Hitchcock remains a ….
Robyn Hitchcock, friend of the three B's -- Beatles, Byrds and (Syd) Barrett -- and painter of surrealist word pictures, has spread 20 sturdy albums across four decades. His 21st full-length studio release, "Robyn Hitchcock," is self-titled, perhaps in part because the British singer has planted new roots in Nashville, and with it has come a retooled band and renewed attitude. Rather than reinventing himself, Hitchcock has made an album that underlines his strengths.