After thirty-five years of releasing cleverly titled solo albums, British singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock has at long last delivered his first self-titled record. It’s difficult to believe the reason for the wait had anything to do with Hitchcock being struck with a sudden inability to come up with a title. After all, this is the same man who has consistently utilized countless wonderful worlds and characters (both real and imagined) to populate his smartly written, jangly, psych-pop songs. Perhaps it’s best to view this album’s title (or lack thereof) as a canny way for Robyn to reintroduce himself to a younger audience. It’s a safe bet that this move will indeed pay off, as any curious new fan who backpedals through Hitchcock’s catalog will find that both his singing voice and his always impressive songwriting style has changed very little over the last three decades.
Showcasing ten new songs that clock in at a total playing time of just under forty minutes, the latest full-length is a tight, neat set of songs that expertly demonstrate the imagination, humor, and stylistic musical traits that longtime Hitchcock fans have come to love and expect. Whether it’s the pair of rockers that open the record, “I Want to Tell You About What I Want” and “Virginia Woolf,” or the countrified tunes, “I Pray When I’m Drunk” and “1970 In Aspic,” Robyn shows a deftness in his ability to adopt genres without compromising his distinct personality. Without a doubt, however, the record’s standout moment occurs with its centerpiece, the epic ballad, “Sayonara Judge.”
“Losing my face, losing my friends, losing my temper,” Robyn sings in a voice just above a whisper. “Sayonara Judge” has Hitchcock in a much more serious mood. The ballad bravely finds a man of advancing years taking stock in his life up to this point. The song’s chorus, “Sayonara, I’m a loser, but I’m walking on air,” punctuates each verse wherein Robyn resolutely sings about the things time has taken from him.
The album ends with the pleasantly paired “Autumn Sunglasses” and “Time Coast.” The penultimate track, “Autumn Sunglasses,” in addition to providing a catchy, singalong chorus, is a psych-pop gem that utilizes lovely strings to great effect. The album concludes with “Time Coast,” a final rocker that brings things to a close with the lyrics, “I’m singing like a fossil, time goes by so fast.” A solid listen from beginning to end, Robyn Hitchcock’s self-titled new record succeeds both as a strong reminder of the talents and gifts for which he has long been admired and appreciated, and a perfect introduction for the uninitiated.