For Robyn Hitchcock, London’s Calling With Love

We assume that by the time a Swiss watchmaker is 60, he can do pretty much anything — make complicated watches with intricate gears, or whimsical bling, if that’s what he wants — but it all will tell perfect time.  So it is with Robyn Hitchcock, who started rock’n’roll life in the punk era, but was always too clever to be reduced to three-chord rock.  (To begin with, he’s always been too fine a guitarist, a man who could have worked sessions if he hadn’t the talent to have written 500 songs over the course of a long, glorious career.)  As a master of everything from jangling, Byrdsy folk-rock to the most intricate chamber pop, to hard-rocking three-minute entomological rom-coms, Hitchcock has always carried himself as a British eccentric, the Paul Smith of tasteful Indie rock.  But on Love From London, his 19th record — including his work with The Soft Boys?  dunno…– Hitchcock slips the non-formulaic formula that’s governed his incredible output since 2005, which includes four certifiably great albums, and shows he can still be frisky.  If we are to pay off the multiple analogies spraying everywhere in this lede paragraph, shall we consider him the Swiss watchmaker who mixes up colors like Paul Smith? Yes, let’s.

We thought 2006’s Ole! Tarantula was a great album, one of his best, but it just got better from there, as Goodnight Oslo, Propeller Time, and Tromso, Kaptein were marvels of mature folk-rock confections that still each had a kick, like Swiss chocolate with a jalapeno tang.  That he is held in such respect by his peers that guitarists like Peter Buck travel oceans just to back him up, for little pay but much satisfaction, shows the kind of artist we are talking about. On Love From London, Hitchcock’s added piano and organ to his basic band, which consists of standard guitar-bass-drums, but also cellos and the occasional horns.  On a song like “Stupefied,” it’s easy to imagine a surviving John Lennon invoking his Beatles past.  But like David Bowie, whose new album sends us back into the world he created, Hitchcock is enough of a master, with a long-enough track record, that all the references are to his massive body of great work.  For Hitchcock aficionados, the long string of Saturday morning rainy day albums that put a knowing smile on our faces continues.  May it do so for decades to come.

In a wonderful interview in Time, Hitchcock talks about how music no longer matters, at least not like it used to.  In the days when one sought out obscurities in records shops, the commodity value of music was so much greater than it is in an instantly downloadable world.  Robyn Hitchcock is the kind of artist we would have hitchhiked to the big city just to find the record bins containing his work.  Take advantage of our modern world and download Love From London today.

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