A few months ago I was listening to one of Robyn Hitchcock’s ’90s records – Jewels for Sophia – and I was completely uninterested in it. I’m not sure if it was actually boring, but it definitely sounded out of time (and conservative) compared to what was being made at the time. It seemed like the wrong thing to revisit 20 years later when there was so much more vital music being made, that didn’t sound like it was being made by an old guy. So I basically dismissed him. But then this anniversary came up.
And when I listened to this record it grabbed me from the very start, from piano instrumental to piano instrumental. Almost immediately I decided I would definitely give it my three listens. So what changed?
Well, one possibility is that this is just a way better record. It’s a good set of idiosyncratic songs and instrumentals. And maybe some of its appeal is just how goofy it all is; Hitchcock has an appealing sense of humour when he deploys it and the rest of the songs are good enough that I’m not bothered by the inconsistency of tone.
In fact, much of the appeal is the stylistic diversity (or inconsistency), which very much feels like he just recorded whatever he felt like. (I mean, there are a cappella tracks…) That can either be really appealing or frustrating but hear it is definitely endearing. I’m not familiar with what he was doing before, but this really sounds like the someone has been liberated from previous constraints. Hitchcock also appears nearly completely oblivious to what was going on musically at this point, which is pretty refreshing.
I find myself really enjoying this record and very pleasantly surprised. It makes me totally rethink my attitude towards him and I’ll try to keep more of an open mind the next time one of his albums celebrates an anniversary.