Robyn Hitchcock

By - Oct 1st, 2004 02:52 pm
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By Jon M. Gilbertson

Yep Roc

William Burroughs complained that the English were capable of granting him hours of charming conversation without telling him anything personal about themselves. The English have never filed an official reply, but singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock—an English charmer since at least 1977 (when he formed the Soft Boys and introduced literate wit to punk rock) —would probably suggest to Burroughs that at least he got an evening’s entertainment.

Nevertheless, Hitchcock reaches his most affecting moments when he at least gives the appearance of dropping his verbose reserve. With Spooked, his two major accompanists are Nashville residents Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, who have made their own careers from a history of honest and moderated revelation. They gently encourage him to play quietly, and in the familiar crackling of his voice there comes a sense that he’s actually checking to see that what he sings is worth saying.

Hitchcock scatters a handful of the usual chuckled asides (“We’re Gonna Live in the Trees”) and obsessions (“Demons and Fiends”), but the atmosphere of the recording—two friends welcoming a third into their circle and letting him hold forth—coaxes intimacy from his sheltered heart. The feathery “Full Moon In My Soul” ranks among his finest true love songs; the delicate fingerpicking of “Television” indicates genteel sympathy for its TV-addicted protagonist; and the airy “Flanagan’s Song” closes Spooked in hushed reflection. In conversation with Rawlings and Welch, Robyn Hitchcock charms, to be sure, but he also tells them a few things about himself.

On November 5, Robyn Hitchcock plays Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave.

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