Exhilarated by the simple joys of the Jonathan Demme movie Storefront Hitchcock, the celebrated Mr. H demonstrates more of the straightforward, idiosyncratic charm and scrumptious tunes that made his film such a surprise. And what a fine piece of work! Without altering his established formula, it's clear the one-time Soft Boys leader has hit on a good vein. No need for lush production, even if it worked well on some of his earlier '90s albums such as Perspex Island. Jewels just collects all his strengths.
Sometime after the release of 2003's sparse and slightly chilly Luxor, Robyn Hitchcock attended his first Gillian Welch show. Impressed by the duo's rootsy adherence to the organic – two guitars, two voices – he approached the longtime fans – Hitchcock unknowingly signed David Rawlings' guitar at a Boston in-store in 1989 – and exchanged digits. The unlikely partnership came to fruition at Nashville's Woodland Studios a few months later, and in just six days the lovely, intimate, and typically eccentric Spooked was born. Produced by Rawlings and culled from hours of off-the-cuff originals, Dylan songs, and general weirdness, Spooked harks back to his mercurial I Often Dream of Trains period.
Robyn Hitchcock is a wizard with an electric guitar and can create crackling, energetic rock & roll with the right band behind him, but sometimes it seems he's happiest when he's working all by his lonesome, and some of the finest albums in his catalog feature him in solo semi-acoustic mode (most notably I Often Dream of Trains and Eye). Shadow Cat is an accidental sibling to these works, a collection of 14 solo Hitchcock tracks recorded between 1993 and 1999, most of which haven't surfaced before.
Robyn Hitchcock has made a few albums that announce themselves as masterpieces right out of the box, such as I Often Dream of Trains, Fegmania!, or the Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight, but his catalog also includes a handful of records that sneak up on you with a subtle excellence, such as Eye, Respect, and Jewels for Sophia. Propellor Time falls into the latter category; on the surface, it doesn't feel all that different from the albums that immediately preceded it (Olé! Tarantula and Goodnight Oslo), but play it a few times, let it sink in, and this album sounds like one of the most satisfying things Hitchcock has made since the mid-'90s.
After the stripped-back collection I Often Dream of Trains, Robyn Hitchcock slowly formed a backing band called the Egyptians with ex-Soft Boys Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor, and keyboardist Roger Jackson over the course of the next year. Fegmania!, the Egyptians' first album, was a distinct departure from both the Soft Boys and Hitchcock's previous solo work, featuring layered, intertwining guitars and keyboards that created lush and thick sonic textures. Even with the more detailed arrangements, the songs remained twitchy and off-kilter, with melodies that usually went in willfully unpredictable directions, yet remained catchy all the while. Fegmania! was Hitchcock's most consistent work to date, featuring such highlights as the Eastern-tinged "Egyptian Cream", and the creepy "My Wife & My Dead Wife", and the relatively straightforward "The Man with the Lightbulb Head".
Robyn Hitchcock is the follow up to 2014's critically acclaimed The Man Upstairs. The new record was recorded in Nashville, Robyn's new home base in the US, and was produced by Robyn and Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). This is the first time Robyn has made a full band album in the studio since 2008 and the record features a lot of key players, including Gillian Welch, Emma Swift, Pat Sansone (Wilco, The Autumn Defense), and Grant-Lee Phillips. The psych-rock influence is a callback to his days with The Soft Boys and his early solo albums.
After the debacle that was the making of 1982's Groovy Decay, Robyn Hitchcock briefly retired from music, and when he returned it was with an album that offered a thoroughly uncompromised vision of Hitchcock's imagination. Released in 1984, I Often Dream of Trains was a primarily acoustic set with Hitchcock handling nearly all the instruments and vocals by himself; the tone is spare compared to the full-on rock & roll of his recordings with the Soft Boys or his solo debut, Black Snake Diamond Role, but the curious beauty of Hitchcock's melodies is every bit as striking in these stripped-down sessions, and the surreal imagery of "Flavour of Night," "Trams of Old London," and the title song comes to vivid and enchanting life. Hitchcock's off-kilter wit has rarely been as effective as it is on this album; the jaunty harmonies of "Uncorrected Personality Traits" are the ideal complement for the song's psychobabble, "Sounds Great When You're Dead" manages to be funny and a bit disturbing at once, and the drunken campfire singalong of "Ye Sleeping Knights of Jesus" was joyously sloppy enough to inspire a cover by the Replacements.