Hot on the heels of Rhino’s reissue campaign, Robyn signed with Warner Bros. and came out with a new album—two actually. Moss Elixir was considered the “real” album, but it was preceded two weeks early by Mossy Liquor. Subtitled “Outtakes and Prototypes”, this vinyl-only release had six different songs and six alternate versions from the CD. And in some ways, it’s better.
For a perverse beginning, “Alright Yeah” is sung in Swedish, as opposed to the earlier B-side recorded with the Egyptians. The Byrds-like backing is still infectious. “Beautiful Queen” has a pleasant groove following it, but “Shuffling Over The Flagstones”, a gorgeous instrumental in keeping with I Often Dream Of Trains and Eye, deserves to be heard more. “Cool Bug Rumble” stumbles for a while, though the guitar on the second bridge makes it. “Wide Open Star” is a weak attempt at English folk, and “Each Of Her Silver Wands” comes closer.
“De Chirico Street” features the insistent violin of Deni Bonet, who’d be featured on the contemporary tours and in an upcoming film. “As Lemons Chop” doesn’t really go anywhere, but the subdued “Sinister But She Was Happy” is slightly better. “Trilobite” is a tribute to a fossil of some kind, and no worse than They Might Be Giants’ songs about junior high science. “The Devil’s Radio” is more coded than George Harrison’s song, but at least he goes so far as to mention Rush Limbaugh by name. Apparently a “Heliotrope” is a plant that faces the sun, and this is a truly beautiful song. The untitled guitar coda near the inner groove conjures mental images of the last few seconds of Astral Weeks.
But being 1996, the casual consumer was more likely to hear the CD. Moss Elixir starts with a more electric version of “Sinister” and a faster “Devil’s Radio”. “Heliotrope” sounds the same, which is fine, followed oddly by “Alright Yeah” in English. “Beautiful Queen” has more of an edge in this version, plus a trumpet, but “De Chirico Street” isn’t much better in this rockin’, traffic-jam horn version.
Most of the “new” songs are worthy. “Filthy Bird” continues the English folk influence, as does “Speed Of Things” (which is similar to “Each Of Her Silver Wands”). Unfortunately, “Man With A Woman’s Shadow” tries too hard to be Hitchcockian. “I Am Not Me” is hollering for a rhythm section, but all we get is percussion near the end. A title track after the fact, “You And Oblivion” appears to be another meditation on dead parents over three chords; the “Cinnamon Girl”-style ending is a nice touch. The slow and snaky “This Is How It Feels” is an odd way to end the album, but at least it stays interesting.
A decade later, Mossy Liquor quietly turned up on iTunes and Rhino as a download-only release. Then, in 2010, tiny reissue label Wounded Bird put out a cheap two-fer set of both albums in one package, making the LP available on CD for the first time. Taken together, it’s now even easier to compile your personal favorites into a stellar mix. At the same time, it sounds like in the making of these albums, Robyn had plenty of ideas but no idea how to bring them together best.
Robyn Hitchcock Mossy Liquor (1996)—3
Robyn Hitchcock Moss Elixir (1996)—3