Monday, April 19, 2010

Robyn Hitchcock 4: Fegmania!

So it was time for a band. Who better but a couple of Soft Boys? And once you’ve got a band, you must record an album. That’s the law, after all.
Fegmania! is Robyn’s first album with the so-called Egyptians, two of whom—drummer Morris Windsor and bassist/keyboardist Andy Metcalfe—were indeed former Soft Boys. For a while there was a fourth Egyptian on keyboards, mostly of the DX7 variety, and for that reason the album itself suffers from a distinct mid-‘80s sheen. But for better or worse this is where Robyn’s jangle started, and it would only make sense that he’d occasionally get support from R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. And now that he learned how to make albums again, he avoided the pitfalls that affected his first two.
For starters, he was writing songs that were as catchy as they were clever. “Egyptian Cream” is a nice tune about pregnancy. “Insect Mother” has a snaky riff in an odd time signature, which sounds a lot like his other snake riffs in odd time signatures. “Strawberry Mind” sports an accordion, albeit synthed, and is not to be confused with “The Cars She Used To Drive” and “Out Of The Picture”, starting as it does with “she wants to know about”.
“The Man With The Lightbulb Head” and “My Wife & My Dead Wife” add to the other Hitchcockian overtures of the album—many of Robyn’s songs have a macabre twist about them. (Although truth be told, the latter one is more Noel Coward than Alfred.) “Goodnight I Say” wears more influences on its polka-dotted sleeve—in this case, the Velvet Underground. It’s also one of the only occasions we can think of where a “good night” song is used to end side one instead of side two or side four. Instead, “Heaven” is a rousing album closer.
When Fegmania! first appeared on CD, it had bonus tracks, added from contemporary singles. “Bells Of Rhymney” is quite faithful to the Byrds version, while “Dwarfbeat” and “Some Body” are less exciting. The Rhino edition included these, along with a few demos and live tracks of dubious vintage that provide other perspectives on “Heaven”, “Egyptian Cream” and “Insect Mother”. Yep Roc’s reissue started fresh again by dropping “Dwarfbeat” (no loss there) and adding a few negligible demos to a couple of the rescued Rhino tracks. The Rhino version has the edge, but as long as the original album is preserved, you’re good.

Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians Fegmania! (1985)—
1986 CD: same as 1985, plus 3 extra tracks
1995 Rhino reissue: same as 1986 CD, plus 5 extra tracks
2008 Yep Roc: same as 1985, plus 7 extra tracks

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