Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Robyn Hitchcock 28: Tromsø, Kaptein

Another year, another album from Robyn Hitchcock. This time, however, the gimmick was that Tromsø, Kaptein was released physically only in Norway, but soon downloadable or streamable anywhere. It’s a predominantly acoustic album, with the addition of a few strings, muted rhythm section and female backing vocals.
Things begin promisingly with “Light Blue Afternoon” and its timely tempo changes, but it ends abruptly. Two tracks are remakes: “Raining Twilight Coast”, with prominent cello and vocal touches similar to the demo, and “Godnatt Oslo”, a version of the title track of the second Venus 3 album, sung in Norwegian. “Savannah” fades in, clomps along for five and a half minutes, then fades out, leaving one’s mind to wander.
And that’s why the album fails to triumph. Part of it is because most tracks hover within the four- to five-minute window, and cycle through even fewer chords. And a lot of them sound alike, making it difficult to separate one title from another verse after the fact. Every now and then a melody leaps out, as in the choruses of “The Abyss”, or within the jaunty music-hall march of “Dismal City”. “Old Man Weather” sports a nice instrumental bridge, amid lots of cello. “Erasing Your Life” is an interesting hook, though “August In Hammersmith” doesn’t sound very thought through (at least until the chanting of the region’s postal code over the end).
In the end, Tromsø, Kaptein is pleasant, harmless and not immediately memorable. His level of quality prevents him from making a “bad” album, but somehow still feels like we’re not saying anything different about him.

Robyn Hitchcock Tromsø, Kaptein (2011)—3

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