Blending classic English sensibilities with darkly clever psychedelic pop, Robyn Hitchcock constructs a musical universe all his own. With a career spanning nearly four decades, the frontman of Cambridge’s neo-psych post punk group the Soft Boys first made waves with the much-admired 1980 release Underwater Moonlight before the band split later that year. Not to abandon making fine-crafted pop thick with wise whimsicality Robyn has steadied a prolific career, making a decade’s worth of music with the Egyptians (including 1985’s Fegmania!) and more recently with members of R.E.M., Young Fresh Fellows and Ministry as the Venus 3. In March the singer, songwriter, painter and even sometime-Hollywood actor celebrates the release of a new solo album, Love From London (Yep Roc Records), and his 60th birthday. He sips a cup of tea and chats by telephone from his hotel room in New York. This interview by Linda A. Rapka.
Robyn Hitchcock: Sorry if you can hear that noise. That’s me making a cup of tea. You can tell how English I am.
You describe your new album, Love From London, as one that ‘celebrates life in a culture imperiled by economic and environmental collapse.’ That sounds contradictorily optimistic.
I do my best to block out the news. I don’t have CNN on all the time or spend all day listening to NPR or Radio 4. I don’t follow Twitter. I recoil in horror at most that goes on at real life. I try to keep my head buried in the late ‘60s. The emphasis on my record is on celebration. Little bits of information—snippets from the outside world—bleed through occasionally in what I’m singing, but I’m not here to give you the bad news. I just wanna boogie. Continue reading
As published by LA Record:
When I heard that Robyn Hitchcock was coming back to town as co-headliner with Nick Lowe at the El Rey, the first thing I did was cash in on my fabulous L.A. RECORD connections to score tickets. The second thing I did was miss his entire set. I arrived at 10 pm, which on a Friday night by L.A. standards is pretty damn prompt, to find that not only had Robyn come and gone, but I’d already even missed Nick Lowe’s first couple of tunes. Not being all that familiar with Lowe’s stuff – except of course for his standards “Cruel to Be Kind” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” – I disappointedly resigned myself to sit through his set and try to enjoy myself. After listening to him play a couple of tunes of just him and acoustic guitar, I was sure that was not going to happen. But as the evening wore on, I found myself increasingly entranced by the 50-something Englishman’s simple yet heartfelt melodies and story-like lyrics of life and love. Though sponsored by Indie 103, it felt like more of a KCRW crowd, the audience comprising faux-hipsters in their late twenties who allowed their parents to tag along, all singing to every song, completely enamored with Lowe. The highlight for me was the encore, when both Lowe and Hitchcock took the stage together and performed a number of surprising old covers, including the little-known 1963 tune “Hungry For Love” by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly and the Beatles’ “If I Fell.” (LL)
As published in L.A. Record:
This experience should have been a disaster: I’d planned to meet up with a friend who never showed. Sleepy openers Sean Nelson & His Mortal Enemies weren’t even close to being my cup of tea, forcing me to spend nearly two hours in the smoking lounge silently watching a series of excruciatingly boring billiards games. During the show, I didn’t recognize one single song in the entire set. But Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 turned out to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Robyn made his way to the stage sporting a brightly colored, flowery button-down shirt that only an English rocker of his caliber could rock without eliciting laughter and piteous head-shaking. From the moment the band began, I and the rest of the enthusiastic audience were completely entranced. Robyn’s signature sound is an inimitable blend of sophisticated pop melodies and nasally vocals that evoke John Lennon mixed with cheeky, smart and eerily bizarre lyrics that recall Syd Barrett. Aside from Soft Boys stuff, I own a grand total of two Hitchcock albums, so when taking into account his massive creative output—which rivals Elvis Costello—it wasn’t much of a shocker that the only song I recognized in the entire set was a Bob Dylan cover. However, the tight playing of the star-studded backing band (R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Young Fresh Fellows’ frontman Scott McCaughey and Ministry’s Bill Rieflin) and Robyn’s unique vocals, exquisite guitar playing and off-the-wall banter kept me immersed the entire night. I’ll definitely be popping by Sea Level soon to pick up my long-overdue copy of “Ole! Tarantula,” and I’ll definitely be awaiting Robyn’s next visit to our fair city.