Saturday, November 1, 2008
Robyn Hitchcock, "Luminous Groove"
I just finished listening to all of Robyn Hitchcock's box set, "Luminous Groove" this week, and I'm blown away by it. It's a 5-CD set, so I'm not going to go over everything thoroughly right this minute. Suffice it to say, if you like Robyn, you'll love this box set. It includes Robyn's first three albums with his backing band the Egyptians, which was basically Robyn's former band the Soft Boys, minus Kimberely Rew. Rew went on to form Katrina and the Waves, and wrote "Walking on Sunshine." (Do you think people were ever confused when they found out that Kimberely and Robyn are both guys?) Anyway, the three albums are "Fegmania!" the live "Gotta Let This Hen Out!" and "Element of Light." All three albums show Robyn's signature writing style backed by a band that knew how to get the most out of his melodies. Robyn's lead electric guitar is given a very prominent role on these three discs, and it shows what a great guitar player he is. The melodies are jangly and catchy, and it was during this time period, the mid 1980's, that Robyn started to develop a cult following in the US.
Robyn is a great songwriter, but it's difficult for me to separate the wheat from the chaff. I generally like all of his songs, but it's tough to pick one over the others. It's like, "Okay, this song is good, it has a catchy melody and weird lyrics. Okay, the next song also has a catchy melody and weird lyrics. Okay, ALL of his songs have catchy melodies and weird lyrics!" That's perhaps a slight exaggeration, but Robyn's music is very consistent, and I mean that in a good way. He has a real gift for crafting memorable melodies and creating interesting images with his lyrics. I think Robyn could have had more mainstream success with his work if he had stopped writing about jam and bees and fish and wrote simpler, more mundane lyrics, because his melodies are so catchy, but I'm sure the surreal writing style makes it hard for some people to follow his music. I certainly can't claim to understand all of his lyrics. But if he simplified his writing style, he wouldn't be being true to himself and his vision. I'm glad that Robyn has followed his own path, clearly he didn't want to sell out.
In addition to the three albums, "Luminous Groove" also includes a 2-CD set of rarities, "A Bad Case of History." One disc is unreleased studio recordings, and one disc is live recordings. (Some of the live recordings come from Minneapolis's legendary concert venue First Avenue.) These two discs are excellent, they show how in sync the Egyptians were.
Some of the standouts on this set are:
I'm Only You
My Wife and My Dead Wife
The Cars She Used to Drive-live
Somewhere Apart-(which could pass as a John Lennon song from Double Fantasy)
So You Think You're In Love-live
Chimes of Freedom-live
The Wreck of the Arthur Lee-live
If you like Robyn, check out "Luminous Groove." You won't be disappointed.