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Robyn Hitchcock - Spooked

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Artist: Robyn Hitchcock

Album: Spooked

Label: Yep Roc

Review date: Feb. 14, 2005

Robyn Hitchcock’s got an eye for melancholy absurdity. That’s established, as are his effete tendencies (he’s been the Chris Ware of pop for longer than many of his fans have been toilet-trained). Every time he interjects a wrenchingly blunt emotional or sexual confession into his hallucinogenic satire, his relevance prevails. He still worships Bob Dylan, but Hitchcock’s as cool as Dylan might have been, had Zimmy's career-wise self-awareness run deep enough to make him play the fool on purpose.

Since he parted company with the Egyptians and their user-friendly college-pop, he’s experimented with different templates for his mix of Jungian imagery and seemingly tossed-off self-embarrassment. After a decade that spanned from the grubby, scattershot Moss Elixir to the streamlined bustle of Jewels For Sophia to, of all things, a Soft Boys revival, Spooked is something new under the crosseyed, day-glo sun. With only David Rawlings and Gillian Welch supplying the defiantly tasteful backup, the new joint sounds like it could’ve been recorded in a crawlspace, chosen because it happened to have the cleanest acoustics in the universe. Even the sneering drag “Creeped Out” sounds too elegant to shiver.

And yet, Spooked sidesteps the icy classicism that could’ve prevailed, considering who’s on hand. Each of Hitchcock’s carefully packaged riddles – from an only halfway sarcastic glass-teat love song (“Television”) to an anthem for luddites on LSD (“We’re Gonna Live In the Trees”) to the chimey “If You Know Time” – are disinfected but still bleed. And the sting is still there, regardless of how adeptly Hitchcock can tell which color in Crayola’s 96 box corresponds to that of his blood.

By Emerson Dameron

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