Monday, September 23, 2013

Robyn Hitchcock 22: While Thatcher Mauled Britain

Yep Roc’s joy at having Robyn Hitchcock on their label came equally from having mild critical and commercial success with his new work as it did from finagling yet another revamp of his thorny catalog. Already patronized by customers into digital downloads to go with new pristine vinyl, they and he took direct aim at people resigned to buying things they already had with two box sets devoted to Robyn’s seminal (there’s that word again) ‘80s work.
The first of these, I Wanna Go Backwards, was built around three key solo albums: Black Snake Dîamond Röle, I Often Dream Of Trains and Eye. Each got new booklets and bonus tracks, some familiar, some not. But the real attraction was the two discs of demos from the ‘80s, some familiar, some not, collected under the new title While Thatcher Mauled Britain.
One of our favorite bloggers was kind enough to break out what makes this set essential in comparison to the Rhino program of a decade earlier, but essentially the discs shuffle a bunch of selections already beloved from Invisible Hitchcock and You & Oblivion with some of the Rhino discoveries for an even more chaotic listening experience. One’s enjoyment of these depends on the listener (and how many copies they already had) but chances are everyone went straight for the never-before heard stuff. Not all of it would have been better off unheard.
“Melting Arthur” does a lot with a simple melody, and “Parachutes & Jellyfish” is one of his better Syd Barrett impressions. “Lightplug” is something of an ancestor to “Wafflehead”, and “You’re So Repulsive” has better verses than the chorus of the title. As for the more familiar stuff, a jaunty acoustic “Flesh Number 1” has no Glenn Tilbrook but does boast Peter Buck. There’s even a live version of “Dr. Sticky”. An earlier, more primitive performance of “The Abandoned Brain” helps keep things different; the same keyboard is used for “Opiatrescence”, which is worth the wait. Likewise, it’s surprising that he never did anything else with “Lovely Golden Villians” or “Toadboy”. And after a couple of hours’ worth of spooky acoustic music, “I Wanna Go Backwards” provides some electricity to close the set.
So there’s a lot of music crammed into this set, and hardcore Hitchcock fans need it all (again). Still, one can’t help wishing the all-new stuff could have been made available in their own tidy little package, because really, did they expect a whole crop of new fans to discover him for the first time here?

Robyn Hitchcock I Wanna Go Backwards (2007)—

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