Lacking the profile of contemporaries Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock has quietly amassed a varied repertoire of self-penned songs since his first appearance in 1976. And having passed his half century, he released the album, “Spooked” today in 2004.
Initially appearing with the Soft Boys and backed at other times by The Egyptians, Robyn Hitchcock’ s album “Spooked” was ostensibly solo, but featured the not insubstantial contributions of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – a collaboration that began when the duo confessed their love for all things (Robyn) Hitchock when he attended one of their gigs.
Containing some of Robyn’s most accessible work, his writing and delivery is no less humorous than before, but tones down the English eccentricity in a favour of a more American Gothic outlook. That’s testament to the acoustic promptings of Welch and Rawlings on this Nashville- recorded album, taking it in a more (mid) westerly direction than the similarly under-stated, “I Often Dream of Trains.”
The ten original tracks here (reissues contain extra material) conform to the adage that Hitchcock writes about “sex, food, death and insects” (a title he’d later use for a documentary DVD), but he also gets bonus points for mentioning the cartoonist Ronald Searle and the humble Ocelot.
A version of Bob Dylan’s “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven….” (from 1997′s “Time Out of Mind” album) also appears – Hitchock later confirming that he, Welch and Rawlings found common ground with versions of other Dylan songs from the “Basement Tapes” era – including “Lo and Behold” and “Tears of Rage”.
Hitchcock’s 2010 release, “Propellor Time” then referenced those same Dylan/Band sessions, but more for the creative atmosphere than any actual Big Pink musical influence – that remains the sole province of “Spooked”.
PS: Don’t be put off by the artwork – even if it is reminiscent of some cubist mutation of that awful “hello kitty” character - it’s actually one of Hitchcock’s own creations.
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And here’s some footage of Robyn in action: