Friday, April 4, 2014

Robyn Hitchcock 25: Goodnight Oslo

Having resigned himself to a future with a small but devoted fan base, Robyn kept writing, touring and recording, intent on staying active rather than changing the world. Goodnight Oslo wisely kept a good thing going, being his second release with the Venus 3, that tight little combo also busy being the guys not named Michael in R.E.M.
As has been his wont, he peeks around the gate before setting off. “What You Is” is a psychedelic soul number, with lines that emerge on the tenth listen, hiding behind the ladies’ vocals. “Your Head Here” sports a little whimsy like a refugee from the ‘80s, production tricks speeding up voices and even doubling Chris Difford-style. Keeping up the fun mood, “Saturday Groovers” is as catchy as anything he’s done, followed by the intoxicating “I’m Falling”. “Hurry For The Sky” is all Western, with dust and tumbleweeds permeating everything—not a common sound in the Hitchcock canon, and ultimately a gimmick.
“Sixteen Years” is more like it, with an arpeggiated guitar we expect—nay, demand from a song written partially by Peter Buck. Despite its Bo Diddley jazz intro, “Up To Our Nex” combines jangle, mandolins and mariachi horns for an addictive mix. The horns also pepper “Intricate Thing”, a pleasant little strum. The trippy “TLC” could also be an Egyptians refugee, except that the title stands for Tryptizol, Librium and Carbrital, which were among the drugs that killed Brian Epstein. Once that peters out, the title track taps insistently for six minutes, spinning mystery like a Norwegian “Year Of The Cat”.
Goodnight Oslo is the first time in, let’s say, sixteen years where he sounds like he’s making an album, rather than recording on the fly and embellishing as he goes. Maybe it’s the one-man horn section, used here as light dressing; maybe it’s Morris Windsor on backing vocals here and there. Whatever the secret ingredient, it further proves that he works best with a consistent unit supporting him. (And as had become almost automatic, early copies of the album included a bonus disc with two songs easily as good as anything else on the album proper.)

Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 Goodnight Oslo (2009)—3

1 comment:

  1. I am surprised you did not note the similarities between "What You Is" and "Gotta Serve Somebody."