Monday, May 16, 2011

Robyn Hitchcock 16: Storefront Hitchcock

Robyn had befriended Oscar®-winning director and music fan Jonathan Demme, who decided to film him singing and playing in a vacant Manhattan shop, with passersby and vehicles seen through the window onto the street as background. It hardly made a splash on par with Stop Making Sense, Demme’s acclaimed concert documentary that pretty much put him on the map, but naturally, there was a soundtrack album.
Storefront Hitchcock attempts to bring one of his live performances to posterity—a futile exercise since each of his concerts are so different from one another—and the question remains: why now? Some of the songs are from the last album, some go back a few years, and some had yet to be released on a studio album. Some of the new songs are good, and some aren’t. (Also, and a nice bonus for those compiling mix tapes, the spoken intros are treated as separate tracks. Including the last one, which appears to be an audio-verité conversation over a hotel meal.)
“1974” has some great lyrics about that particular year, and “I Something You”, which had been out as a small-label single, uses better wordplay. “Let’s Go Thundering” is pretty dull, almost like a parody of a Robyn Hitchcock song, and “Where Do You Go When You Die?” serves little purpose beyond fodder for a monologue. There’s a very pleasant folkie version of “Wind Cries Mary”, which shows off its structural influence on the Soft Boys’ “Have A Heart Betty”. With an enigmatic introduction, “No, I Don’t Remember Guildford” is a sad, hypnotizing goodbye.
His choices from his own catalog seem almost random. He must be proud of “The Yip Song” and “Alright Yeah”, since here they are again. “I’m Only You” has an extended guitar section—as does “Freeze”, which is not too intolerable here—and goes nicely into “Glass Hotel”. “Beautiful Queen” is used as a finale, seeing as it was likely the song from the last album that would have gotten the most airplay.
The performance is predominantly acoustic, with some echo and fuzz effects here and there and a second guitarist and violinist helping out from time to time, so it’s fairly representative of his current live show. Unfortunately, Storefront Hitchcock is just not very exciting, leading to the question whether other songs should have been selected for the album, since entirely different ones appear in the film.

Robyn Hitchcock Storefront Hitchcock (1998)—


  1. I agree completely. The soundtrack & the film were both underwhelming. I attended one of the four concerts that was filmed for the movie, and even that was not so great -- nothing like a typical RH show. We were afraid to make any noise or even applaud, despite Demme encouraging us otherwise. It was very strange.