Robyn Hitchcock Love From London Review

Album. Released 2013.  

BBC Review

The erstwhile Soft Boy’s latest solo outing is a brooding, politicised set.

David Sheppard 2013

Turning 60 in March 2013, none-more-English singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock is surely about due for installation at national treasure-dom’s top table.

Not that this, the erstwhile Soft Boy’s 19th solo outing, panders exclusively to Hitchcockian stereotype: specifically, Syd Barrett-via-Edward Lear neo-psych-rock whimsy, with a side order of Paisley Underground guitar swirl and chime.

Indeed, while his customary playfulness in dissecting matters of the heart and cerebellum is a reassuring hallmark of Love From London, the album also proffers a brooding, politicised, sometimes incensed Hitchcock – even if its title does more readily connote a beatific 1967 hippie "happening".

That ire is made most manifest on the motorik, fuzz-toned Fix You, in which Hitchcock vents his spleen at the architects of the current global financial crisis and the ensuing buck-passing: "They make you redundant and call you a slacker."

Imagine an updated Plastic Ono Band giving it to the man, post Bear Stearns, etc, and you’re close. Its righteous vitriol is set askew by typically psychedelic references to “strawberry mousse” and the like.

Elsewhere, Hitchcock and his adroit band (bassist Paul Noble, cellist Jenny Adejayan and vocalists Lizzie Anstey, Jenny Marco, Lucy Parnell and Anne Lise Frokedal) get to grips with an eclectic litany of the man’s less-quotidian essays, his soi-disant “paintings you can listen to”.

Typically, Strawberries Dress marries the glinting psyche-pop of Hitchcock’s 80s combo The Egyptians with phantasmagoric lyrics about the Telecom Tower and “a fine young sprite, naked from the naval downwards”.

Elsewhere, My Rain is a lilting, mysterioso late-night waltz, brimming with rollercoaster, Syd-like vocal mannerisms, rippling guitars and mournful cello.

Proceedings conclude with the sprawling End of Time, a song that deals with the tricky business of the post-existential void (ergo death). Even here, Hitchcock can disarm with a simple, childlike simile (“Day breaks like an egg”) and everywhere the potentially portentous subject of mortality is deftly addressed.

It culminates in a hymnal, valedictory chorus which slowly fades into the ether, leaving just the lapping waves of eternity, before a coda, replete with a chant of the album title, returns us to the living, breathing here and now.

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