I've yet to read an article about the British singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock that didn't compare him to both John Lennon and Syd Barrett, and also refer to him as "eccentric." I'll refrain from using that word, and simply call him "willfully unique." How's that? I can't claim to know a great deal about Robyn or his immense back catalogue, as the first I heard of him was when he was interviewed recently by the Onion's AV Club. I was so intrigued by this witty, intelligent chap that I knew I'd have to check out his music.
Hitchcock is able to write catchy, engaging melodies paired with clever, often surreal, lyrics that show his love of wordplay. A good example of this is the lead track from his 1996 album, Moss Elixir, "Sinister But She Was Happy." It starts with a driving guitar part, mixed with a soaring and dipping violin. In an odd and visceral image, the lyrics describe the title female as being "like a chandelier festooned with leeches." Which in my mind means that she is glamorous and alluring, but also dripping with danger that will suck the life from anyone who gets too close. Or maybe it means nothing at all. Anyway, someone who actually uses the word "festooned" in a song gets points from me. Another great lyric comes from "The Devil's Radio," "Evil, its tentacles are bland, it's like a weevil, it burrows through the land." Quite true. There are little touches throughout his songs, like the faint saxophone in "Devil's Radio," that add perfect sonic details.
But in case you think Hitchcock is just being esoteric for the heck of it, along comes a more straight-ahead rocker like "Alright, Yeah," which sounds like something John Lennon could have written for the Beatles. "Beautiful Queen" is another lovely Beatle-esque tune with the lovely phrase, "Gliding through the snowdrifts in a miniskirt." (Which, as any Minnesotan can tell you, would be very, very chilly!) Moss Elixir is a very strong album all the way through, and it is a great elixir or tonic for these waning days of winter.
Anyway, if you like quirky British people who deserve more mainstream attention, as I do, Robyn Hitchcock is definitely worth checking out. His gift for both words and music will astonish you. For the record, Nick Lowe is a fan of Robyn's, and they'll actually be doing some gigs together soon.