Twenty-one studio albums into his career, Robyn Hitchcock has released a self-titled record. In recent interviews, when asked about the album’s title and why he chose to release an eponymous record so far into his career, Hitchcock has suggested Robyn Hitchcock is an introduction to his music. “Think of me as a new act – I’m only 63. People always ask me, ‘where should I start listening to your records?’ I’m a train with many carriages. I thought, I’ll just make this record and if people like this one, then they’ll probably like the others. If they don’t, it’s not worth them listening to any of them, really.”
The album originated in 2014, following Hitchcock’s move to Nashville, Tennessee. Friend and neighbor Brendan Benson offered to produce the record, with a single caveat: to make it sound like the Soft Boys.
“I said, well, I could use the same instrumentation,” Hitchcock notes. “Two guitars, bass, drums, and harmonies. Which obviously is the template that comes from the Beatles and Big Star and the Byrds, all of those groups that the Soft Boys were nourished by. But of course I’m not fueled by the same nutrients anymore.” The resulting album is Hitchcock’s liveliest record in years. The track “Virginia Woolf” draws on the sounds of the Soft Boys, per Benson’s request, while tracks like “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” and “Time Coast” recall the alt-pop of Hitchcock’s time with The Egyptians, and others still evoke his quieter solo albums like I Often Dream of Trains.
Expanding on the comment that he’s “not fueled by the same nutrients anymore,” Hitchcock adds”I don’t have the same anger that I had as a 25 year old.” This is clearest in Hitchcock’s lyrics. Robyn Hitchcock‘s opening track, “I Want to Tell You About What I Want,” (and originally titled “My Vision of World Empathy”) talks Hitchcock’s vision for the future of humanity: “I want world peace / Gentle socialismo / No machismo / And the only god shall be / The god of L-O-V-E /I want a non-invasive kind of telepathy / That let’s you feel what it’s like to be somebody else.” The song never ditches Hitchcock’s off-kilter sense of humor, however. The next verse speaks of the eventual domination of the world by cats.
Hitchcock describes his latest record as “an ecstatic work of negativity.” His description of the album is apt. Even with the darker, cynical currents of the lyrics, the album is full of energy. To give Hitchcock the last word, “I’ve been making autumnal records since I was 30. Now I’m past the autumn of my life so I’ve decided to start making spring records. I can’t be bothered to sound as ancient as I am.”
Writer’s Note: In addition to contributing to The Manual, I work at a music promotion company, Distiller Promo, that is currently promoting Robyn Hitchcock.
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