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The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music Reviews - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

ROBYN HITCH­COCK I Wanna Go Back­wards

There are few mav­er­icks left in rock mu­sic, and those that do re­main are around or over 50. Rock mu­sic th­ese days sim­ply doesn’t take to non­con­formists the way it did in the 1960s and 1970s. That’s why some­one as tal­ented as Robyn Hitch­cock labours away on the fringes of the mu­sic in­dus­try, not so much a part of it as some­one who was chucked out of it when he stopped hav­ing hits.

A per­former for whom the word “er­ratic” is per­haps the best de­scrip­tion, Lon­don-born Hitch­cock first gained mod­er­ate suc­cess in the mid-1970s with The Soft Boys, but when they split up in 1981 he went his own spi­dery, in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic way. Evok­ing the spirit of Syd Bar­rett via a se­ries of off-cen­tre, softly psy­che­delic songs, Hitch­cock has been a cult fig­ure for more than 25 years.

Hitch­cock raises his head above the para­pet now and again (some­times in the com­pany of REM) with al­bums that fail to ex­cite Shayne Ward fans, but you can guar­an­tee that on each of them are songs you can’t dis­lodge from your head.

So it is with I Wanna Go Back­wards, a lim­ited edi­tion, five-CD box set that in­cludes three clas­sic al­bums (1981’s Black Snake Di­a­mond Role, 1984’s I Of­ten Dream of Trains and 1990’s Eye), While Thatcher Mauled Bri­tain Pts 1&2 (a dou­ble disc cor­nu­copia of out­takes, home record­ings and un­re­leased B-sides), bonus tracks, en­hanced liner notes, po­etry and an ex­cerpt from a novel in progress.

What all of this trea­sury tells you is that Hitch­cock is a man de­cid­edly out of time, pa­tiently yet per­sis­tently pre­sent­ing his ec­cen­tric world view to any­one who cares to lis­ten. He is oc­ca­sion­ally too sur­real for his own good, and fre­quently too self-in­dul­gent, but the songs for the most part are per­fectly formed pop-psych gems, a lit­tle bit un­hinged and a whole lot love­able.

You won­der if Hitch­cock will even­tu­ally dis­ap­pear like other mav­er­icks be­fore him (Cap­tain Beef­heart and War­ren Zevon, to name but two), his back cat­a­logue eu­lo­gised and name-checked but com­mer­cially ne­glected. The an­swer is prob­a­bly yes. On that ba­sis alone, I Wanna Go Back­wards is an ideal start­ing point for the en­quir­ing mu­sic fan. www.robyn­hitch­cock.com Down­load tracks: A Skull, a Suit­case, and a Long Red Bot­tle of Wine, Some­times I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl, The Beauty of Earl’s Court

Fringe fac­tor: Robyn Hitch­cock has been a cult fig­ure for more than 25 years

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