I will survive
cd choice: reissue
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