Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Album review: ROBYN HITCHCOCK - Tromsø, Kaptein

Highlights: Light Blue Afternoon, Raining Twilight Coast, Dismal City, August In Hammersmith

I have a feeling that Tromsø, Kaptein will go down in history as one of Hitchcock’s least great albums. While no one could quite expect a sonic revolution or anything on par with Eye or I Often Dream Of Trains, there’s no denying that Mr. Hitchcock is most effective and least meandering when quirky and whimsical. Something that isn’t particularly evident on this release.

But with that said, Tromsø, Kaptein is still a masterful record. You just can’t take away the man’s confident Lennon-meets-Barrett songwriting that has never lacked hooks or personality. This time there’s lots of cello and that pensive, brooding mood (which gets more and more inevitable as Hitchcock gets older). There are a couple of quick-paced, instantly catchy numbers (“Light Blue Afternoon”, “Dismal City”), but mostly he goes for these slow, longish songs that start revealing their charm and melodic substance only on further listens. But the substance is there, lots of it – for the passionate and the dedicated (all Hitchcock’s fans are, of course, for who else would buy this?) The fact that Tromsø, Kaptein does not contain Robyn’s best set of tunes can be witnessed in the fact that he redoes Eye’s “Raining Twilight Coast” (a brilliant track cannot be butchered by a man with so much taste) and the more recent “Goodnight Oslo”. With all due respect, the latter wasn’t really necessary. It’s now sung in Norwegian, and in the end it is more like a tribute to the country where this new album was recorded than a brilliant creative idea.

Also, I can’t but praise Robyn’s productivity at this stage of his career. Goodnight Oslo in 2009. Propellor Time (actually recorded earlier, but still) in 2010. Tromsø, Kaptein in 2011. This should certainly count for something. Even if by Robyn Hitchcock’s standards this album is a slight letdown, but by anyone else's it just has to rank among the year’s best. The man can still prove that good songwriting is as irresistible as ever.


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