Archive for Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock’s Norwegian Woody

Posted in Music with tags , , , on May 28, 2011 by johnbuckley100

In rock’n’roll, there are two models for multi-album creativity.  Breeder reactors feed on their own energy and keep producing fissile material that glows in the dark — think of the Beatles between ’64 and ’69, or the Rolling Stones between ’68 and ’72, one great album leading to the next, until the core began to melt.  And then there is the bubbling spring that keeps bringing such pure goodness from a mysterious place underground you can only sit back on the mossy bank and marvel.  That’s the model that accounts for Robyn Hitchcock, who more than 30 years into a brilliant, deceptively steady career, may have just produced, in Tromso, Kaptein, his best album ever.

Robyn Hitchcock says (see post below) that when The Soft Boys began, they wanted to be a mix of The Beatles circa Abbey Road and Captain Beefheart circa Trout Mask Replica.  I would have thought them a mixture of Never Mind The Bollocks  and Ummagumma, but no matter. Over a career in which it would seem natural that bands like the dBs and REM would admire if not directly emulate him, and a quirky director such as Jonathan Demme would not only make a movie about him but also have him play a role in The Manchurian Candidate, Hitchcock’s music has been both sui generis and perhaps best compared to a folk-rock version of the Kinks with the occasional foray into the psychedelic boogie of the Quicksilver Messenger Service.  For Hitchcock isn’t simply a brilliant writer of beautiful songs, he’s also a thrilling lead guitarist whose British eccentricity is always somehow grounded in real rock’n’roll.  Yet his strength, too often, has been his weakness: an inability to stay serious… too many songs about insects instead of human emotions.  But perhaps no more.

Beginning  five years ago, when Hitchcock began to record with The Venus Three  (a band that included Peter Buck on second guitar — what does that tell you?) he has put out a collection of albums (with those and other musicians) that, for anyone else, would have been a career in itself.  Ole Tarantula led to Goodnight Oslo, which begat an antecedent collection entitled Propeller Time, which has now brought us Tromso, Kaptein.  It is not an exaggeration to say that this latest album is the best of Hitchcock’s late career output.  It is possible this is the best thing to bubble up from the deep spring of creativity that has been flowing since the Carter Administration.

Mostly acoustic (there’s an electric bass, Hitchcock only occasionally plays electric guitar here, and if there is a dominant instrument, it’s cello), Tromso, Kaptein is a stunning collection of moody folk-pop with enough hooks to land the Loch Ness monster if it dared wend its way through a distant fjord.  We challenge you to download “Old Man Weather” and then not devour the whole damn thing.  There is, thankfully, no reference to Trout Mask Replica, though the sheer pop ambition may remind you that Abbey Road was recorded in an 8 Track studio, and even in this diminished age, where an artist of Hitchcock’s rank produces an album of this quality for an obscure Norwegian label, the tools available allow such a craftsman to artfully produce a masterpiece on the cheap.  We don’t know precisely what Hitchcock’s obsession with Norway is, though we love the fact that he’s now re-released the song “Goodnight Oslo” as “Goodnatt Oslo,” and sung it in Norwegian.  Robyn Hitchcock is the Richard Dadd of rock’n’roll — a British eccentric who might rather be painting miniature fairies, but who has now the clarity of mind to give us an album with little irony, all beautiful and artisanal folk rock glistening like a spring-fed stream.

If Only We Were Up For Traveling

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 24, 2011 by johnbuckley100

This is the best news we have read in months:

June 2, 2011 – Windsor, UK at Fire Station TICKETS.

BEEFHEART

To celebrate Captain Beefheart and his life on Earth, Robyn Hitchcock and the Imaginary Band will perform the album ‘Clear Spot’ and a few other Beefheart compositions at the Garage, London, June 3th and Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham, June 4th. “In the early Soft Boys we tried to cross Abbey Road  with Trout Mask Replica”, says Robyn: “It didn’t always work but it was some hybrid. The most exciting show I’ve ever seen was Beefheart and The Magic Band in 1973. This won’t be as accurate as the John French/Magic Band gigs a few years back, but Clear Spot is quite a party album, and we’re planning to have quite a party”. The Imaginary Band will be Paul Noble and Terry Edwards on guitars and bass, Jenny Adejayan on cello, and Stephen Irvine on drums.

June 3, 2011 – London, UK at The Garage

June 4, 2011 – Cheltenham, UK at Wychwood Festival

Tulip Frenzy’s #8 Best Album of 2010: Robyn Hitchcock’s “Propeller Time”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 30, 2010 by johnbuckley100

So we’ve deemed the reissued Exile On Main Street ineligible for consideration because it isn’t wholly new, but after picking up the red flag and going to the viewing booth, the refs have declared Robyn Hitchcock’s glorious Propeller Time (which we reviewed here ) as absolutely kosher, even though it was recorded in 2006.  Recorded and then banked in the vast vault in which, who knows, he may have six or seven folk-rock masterpieces stashed away, like that electrician who just showed up with 100 some-odd Picassos.  Not everything Robyn Hitchcock does merits accolades; too many of the acoustic guitar and piano ventures exhibit an excess of energy and an inability to edit.  But Propeller Time, while not as fine as Goodnight Oslo (recorded later, we believe, with the same musicians, including Peter Buck) still shows signs of his 4th Quarter rally, and mixes breathtakingly beautiful melodies with humor and rock’n’roll verve.

Red Letter Day! New New Pornos, And Robyn Hitchcock Is Available To All

Posted in Music with tags , on May 6, 2010 by johnbuckley100

More to weigh in on tomorrow after listening to Together, The New Pornographers’ first new album in three long years.  I mean, The New Pornographers fail to put out an album and by 2008, the whole world falls apart, know what I mean?  So maybe things are now looking up?

And if you have not wanted to go through the hoops of buying Propeller Time, Robyn Hitchcock’s brilliant new one, directly from his website, yesterday it showed up on the iTunes store.  No excuses now.

Yippee.

Robyn Hitchcock’s “Propeller Time” Spins With An Excess of Talent

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 27, 2010 by johnbuckley100

What does it say about Robyn Hitchcock that his new album, Propeller Time, isn’t really new, but was recorded in 2006, and has marinated on a hard drive all the while, waiting for its dramatic entry in the world? Its recording sequenced between the live Sex, Food, Death, and… Tarantulas and last year’s Goodnight Oslo, the lovely Propeller Time comes from a week of 2006 sessions with friends like Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Nick Lowe, John Paul Jones, and Johnny Marr.  Hitchcock describes sessions taking place in his living room, and refers to it as his Basement Tapes, but this does the collection insufficient justice, because it is a wonderfully collected selection of songs, as strong, in a quiet way, as Ole! Tarantula or Goodnight Oslo.

(Though we can see that he had The Basement Tapes on his mind, as the vocal phrasing on this “studio” version of “The Afterlight” comes straight from Dylan’s “Tiny Montgomery.”  Still, The Basement Tapes were late-night bashings of exuberantly half-constructed songs, and by comparison, Propeller Time sounds like Abbey Road: fully constructed folk-pop that pulls out most, if not all of the stops.)

Since the Carter Administration, since his debut with The Soft Boys, Robyn Hitchcock has beguiled us with canny melodies, brilliant guitar lines, and lyrics that try diverting us with entemological loopiness, but which leave a web of poignancy.  To Hitchcock, overburdened with talent, with songs to spare, with so many friends willing to record with him, Propeller Time was sufficiently minor an exercise that it’s sat on the proverbial shelf for four years, and still it could blow away ninety-nine percent of the pop music left on the runway.  Hitchcock lost a little steam in the 1990s, but since the early part of the last decade he’s been going strong.  The Museum of Robyn Hitchcock should be a prime tourist destination for all space travelers who find our little planet.

Note: Propeller Time will be released next week by Yep Roc, but is downloadable now from robynhitchcock.com.

The Official Tulip Frenzy 2009 Top Ten List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Just in time for your holiday shopping… the gang at Tulip Frenzy World HQ has voted.   The best albums of 2009 were:

1.  Sonic Youth    “The Eternal”

They are not young, though they’re certainly youthful, and while some of Sonic Youth’s most devoted fans would recoil at this judgment, Tulip Frenzy thinks 2006’s Rather Ripped and this year’s The Eternal are the best records they’ve released since the mid-’80s.  Incredibly sharp, able to turn on a silver dime, Sonic Youth have still got the basic formula of punk rock punctuated by sudden aural entropy.  Beat that.  And this year, no one could.

2. Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound  “When Sweet Sleep Returned”

We have asked ourselves if this is love on the rebound, if the reason we were so drawn to the second Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound album is because the other bestest neo-psychedelic band in the land, First Communion After Party, failed to release an album this year.  But it’s not true.  When Sweet Sleep Returned is equal parts spectacular San Fran guitar attack and dreamy loveliness.  This is a band that can rock as hard as The Warlocks, and then pivot to an interlude of, well, inter-‘ludes. This one filled our head with sunburst and other sounds throughout much of the summer and fall.

3.    Robyn Hitchcock   “Goodnight Oslo”

Yes, we’d probably enjoy Robyn Hitchcock singing an entomology textbook, and sometime over the past 30 years that he’s beguiled us, we probably have.  That he’s never sounded more self-assured, that his band has Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey playing in it, that(for the most part) he actually dropped the irony and insect bit to sing incredibly punchy pop songs wound ’round the twanging Byrdsy lead guitar he’s been brandishing since the Soft Boys rendered this Frequent Spinner Miles on our office playlist.

4.  Neko Case   “Middle Cyclone”

Here’s how important Neko Case is: because she wanted to push her own album this year, two of our favorite bands — The New Pornographers and Calexico — essentially sat the year out, the former because without Neko, why play?  the latter because they were backing her up.  Forget Neko’s pipes, her incredibly loud tomboy holler, this is a songwriter in the Flannery O’Connor tradition.  Middle Cyclone is a career highlight, and what a career this is proving to be, parked in the middle of the base path between alt.country and the hippest rock around, daring someone to tag her out.

5.  Reigning Sound   “Love And Curses”

It didn’t top their imperfectly heralded masterpiece, Time Bomb High School, but the Reigning Sound’s Love and Curses had me the moment I realized Greg Cartwright’s my favorite rock singer probably since John Lennon.  Just thinking about how a garage band laboring in the grease and sawdust of Asheville, NC could put out a record that spans the whole of rock’n’roll, with a dollop of blue-eyed soul, a sprinkle of punk, and a scoche of roots rock for good measure unpacked smiles wherever they were heard.

6.  Tinariwen  “Imidiwan: Companions”

We’re still trying to fathom how the most compelling Delta blues band we’ve heard since the Jelly Roll Kings conquered Arkansas could have emerged from the Touareg lands of Mali, but by now Tinariwen has figured out how to mix the village singalong with the ululations of the women folk atop an undulating beat that feels like you’re hanging on to a fast camel.  Never expected to spend this much time listening to music from the Sahara.  We’re glad we did, even if they may be a Khaddafian plot more diabolical than his hiring Italian models just to listen to him read the Koran.

7.  The Decembrists  “The Hazards Of Love”

We got over the need for concept albums around the time the Kinks stopped touring behind Preservation, but in another cultural mashup, The Decembrists, citizens of Portland, Oregon, released the best British folk album since Fotheringay.  Awfully pretty, ambitious, and bold, the only grabbing of the stereo dial this prompted when it came on in the car was to turn the volume up.

8.  Pearl Jam   “Backslider”

What does it say about music in Anno Domini 2009 that the finest punk rock extant was from Pearl Jam?  We are as sincere as they are; we’ve never been snide about these guys, and do not put irony on a higher shelf than straightforwardness, of which they’ve also carried a copious supply.  Apparently, boys just want to have fun, and it really sounded like they did making this excellent return to form.

9.  Wilco “Wilco”

Wilco, the album, was a bit of a let down for Wilco, the band.  But even when they miss the mark, they hit the spot, with an album that sounded like master musician Nels Cline wasn’t too proud to invoke his inner Wilbury.  Look, we expect something more from a band that, since 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, has been in a league of their own. As it is, Wilco, the album, kept up the streak of us playing Wilco, the band for half the year’s weeks, and when you think about it, dominating 26 weeks of any given year for this long is like Threepeating the NBA Finals or something.

10.  Cracker  “Sunrise In The Land of Milk and Honey”

It’s not the soft spot we have for David Lowery that got this one clinging to the bottom rung of Tulip Frenzy’s Top Ten list.  Sure, after listening to enough Pearl Jam, you might want some irony, and Lowery’s served it up in spades, both in this Southern combo and among their West Coast brethren, Camper Van Beethoven.  The actual irony is just how much that Pearl Jam album reminded us of the near-equal grip Cracker has on those punkrock power chords.  You can’t have too much fun, and we thank the Lord on a regular interval that this too is Cracker’s attitude.

Robyn Hitchcock’s “GoodNight Oslo” Meets A.C. Newman’s “Submarines of Stockholm”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on February 21, 2009 by johnbuckley100

It’s one of life’s great paradoxes that Robyn Hitchcock, perennial jokester, can also write the most emotionally breathtaking songs.  Going all the way back to his earliest days with the Soft Boys, Hitchcock’s shined underwater moonlight on creatures from the deep, as if afraid to deal with things on the surface, straight up with a frontal view.  Maybe it’s because when he looks at life head on, he captures it so beautifully.

It’s hard to go wrong with Peter Buck and Scott McGaughey in your band, though admittedly there are the usual batch of fish that should never have been landed, that flop around the dock.  I count six keepers, which is a pretty good catch in stormy seas. Still, while not as great a collection of songs as Ole! Tarantula was a few years back, Goodnight Oslo’s in the upper tier of Hitchcock’s solo work, with shimmering guitars and the Minus 5 glee club out in force. “I’m Falling” is as pretty a song as he’s written this century, as pretty as “Raymond Chandler Evening,” and the title track lingers in the mind like a painting by Edvard Munch.

In Get Guilty, A.C. Edward’s second solo album, the best song finds him chugging into the Stockholm harbor, running silently and deep as thrillingly as in any rock song reference to submariners since the Swell Maps.  Tulip Frenzy’s taken a while to write about this album because it disappointed, though it’s since grown on us, like a small tree emanating from our forehead.  Look, The Slow Wonder was such a magnificent work, a bridge between New Pornographer outings Twin Cinemas and Challengers, that we had really high expectations.  While The Slow Wonder never once seemed like these were songs to which Neko and the gang had shaken their heads, “uh, no,” there are moments when Get Guilty does seem like it could be a demo tape for the next New P’s outing.  A consumer report would clock this one as having maybe four really good songs, which is well below Carl’s standards.  But this is A.C. Newman we’re talking about, and when he’s good, he’s great.  “The Collected Works” ranks up there with “Fortune” and “Secretarial” and “Spanish Techno.” There are reasons to throw your hat in the air and whoop.  Just don’t do it in a submarine.

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