Music and Weather
Eye is where it all began—my romance with Robyn Hitchcock, a “charming and dangerous guy,” as he calls himself on “Beautiful Girl.” My older brother introduced us. Upon this point I am certain, though my consumption of Hitchcock’s work far surpasses my brother’s listening habits or his understanding of my obsession. These solo songs echo starkly, just that voice and guitar; he draws me into the studio with him.
“Napoleon…” he begins his ninth album, with the song, “Cynthia Mask*;” his sort of high pitched twangy voice goes on, his accent, prominently English even while singing, cemented our relationship. It doesn’t matter that I have hardly any idea what not one of his songs is about—not just on this, but any of his discography**. I skate upon the surface, and I am beguiled by how the melody and the words dance together.
“Don’t wait a penny longer…” he exhorts on “Executioner,” stopping me in my tracks. For me, Hitchcock’s songs inhabit the same place as Monty Python, Doctor Who, The Young Ones, and everything else that reminds me of places and times that I never inhabited but that seem real and a part of me just the same. Have you ever felt that way? It is almost impossible to explain. Last Shadow Puppets and the more recent Temples evoke the same echo of a memory of something that never happened.
*According to reviewer Mark Deming, “Cynthia Mask” was “an idiosyncratic but unblinking condemnation of Britain’s failings during World War II.”
** Ira Robbins, Michael Pietsch, and Delvin Neugebaue’s collaborative piece on TrouserPress.com seems to sum Robyn Hitchcock well, if that is possible. “Robyn Hitchcock is one of pop’s great surrealists, an artist whose work has the appearance of familiarity yet none of its reassurance. While he often gets compared to poor old Syd Barrett (an acknowledged influence), this London native has closer relations outside the music world: Rene Magritte (logic-defying juxtapositions), Marcel Duchamp (dada absurdity), Edward Lear (whimsical, grotesque fabrications), Charles Addams (gloomy, cartoonish venom). Displaying a keen sense of irony as well as a dry, put-on (and put-upon) wit, Hitchcock’s creations — in song, story, graphics and film — erect puzzling layers of incredibility that stymie presumptions about motivation or meaning. At his worst, when his penchant for self-amusement runs away with him (as it sometimes does), Hitchcock can be far too self-conscious in his pretense of eccentricity, making nonsense seem equally glib and random. At his best, however, he wields bizarre imagery brilliantly to make stealth runs at life’s most challenging problems, elevating the mundane to provocative art.”
“Chinese Water Python”
“Raining Twilight Coast”
“Agony of Pleasure”
“Sweet Ghost of Light”
“Queen Elvis II”
“Shimmering Distant Love”
“Lovers Turn To Skulls”
“The Beauty Of Earls Court”