Robyn Hitchcock: Hungry Babies And Wet Socks
"I've been playing guitar since before most people were born, and someday I'll play my last A chord or C chord, which is a strange thought," says British singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock, whose new album _Perspex Island_ (A&M) distills his free-associated wit and sense of romantic ironyinto a bracing spirit of jangly Rickenbackers and acoustic-style rhythms.
"All thought is free association to some degree, isn't it?" he queries.Hitchcock's endlessly imaginative mind has been confounding and intriguing listeners for years, beginning with his band Soft Boys n the late '70s, whose masterpiece, _Underwater Moonlight_, combined the Sex Pistols' angst with an _Abbey Road_-period melodic sensibility. Often compared to John Lennon, Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett, and poet Edward Lear, Hitchcock is best known for his evocation of an organic underworld teeming with bizarre fauna and absurdist physical interaction, an ethos visually manifested in his stunningly surreal cover paintings. Supporting his colorful verbal landscapes is his equally articulate right-hand pickstyle, which on his two predominantly acoustic releases, _I Often Dream Of Trains_ and 1990's _Eye_, creates a kind of finicky folk that's not sentimental enough for the coffeehouse, and too acerbic and sharply poetic for most rock audiences.
"Basically, I'm an acoustic player, and the acoustic state of mind for me is sitting at this particular table and staring out the window,"Robyn's acoustic influences go back to the late '60s, when as a neophyte songsmith he absorbed the folk-rock explosion as manifested by Pentangle, Roy Harper, Robin Williamson, and the Incredible String Band -
"that ornate, picking guitar." "When I gotRobyn perceives plenty of virgin ground between acoustic and electric music.
"There's 'acoustic music' and then there's 'rock'", he muses.On the title track of his first A&M release, _Globe Of Frogs_, Robyn plays warm acoustic guitar over hypnotically stuttering tabla drum embellished by the melodic doubling of a grand piano. On earlier acoustic tracks like "Get Me A Spanner, Ralph," he goes with country-style harmonica and washboard rhythms, enhancing the wry flavor of his cowboy-in-a-derby sendups.
Lately Robyn has begun to channel his knack for active imagery away from sci-fi super-stratums and into the development of his songs' emotional truth, peeling away the many "layers of protection" which he claims sidetracked him into "adopting other people's masks.
" "There's a lot more about relationships," he says of his recent work. "I prefer my newer songs to the old stuff, which I think sounds a bit childish now. You've got to have something to show for your years. They always say that when you're young, you're brash, and when you get older, you get more considered, more harmonious. But that doesn't have to be. You might get old and go completely berserk. Not everyone faces away in a serene glow - although I'd rather do that than scream on a clifftop somewhere and be blown out to sea."