Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched down in Moore, Okla., Blake Shelton…
- Posted on Mar 14th 2013 4:30PM by Steve McLean
Robyn Hitchcock Facebook
We chatted a bit about the British singer/songwriter's fine new Love From London album and some of the shows he's playing in support of it, but mostly he outlined his world view, noted how he's "become one with the acoustic guitar" and asked questions about the dog he could hear eating from a bowl beside me as I talked and typed.
Love From London was produced by past Hitchcock collaborator Paul Noble and features female harmonies and backing vocals in several songs, as well as subtle augmentation by cellist Jenny Adejayan. It's a relatively gentle pop-rock record that sometimes incorporates Hitchcock's psychedelic influences and fondness for jangly guitar while layering somewhat surrealistic lyrics with what feels like effortlessly created melodies. He calls his songs "paintings you can listen to," and it's an apt description.
The record is Hitchcock's first since since 2011's Tromso, Kaptein and 2010's more widely distributed Propellor Time, which he recorded with The Venus 3 (composed of R.E.M.'s Peter "Mr. Stingy Broom" Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin). Hitchcock didn't want to talk about any of the songs from the album, though. He says there are "no back stories or front stories" to them.
"I don't usually write songs with anything intentional in mind," Hitchcock told Spinner. "It's like a Ouija board and I see what comes through. If you try and make a song be about something, it can be a bit contrived. I can make points in interviews or if I'm on stage, but I don't think they particularly work in songs."
From there Hitchcock went on a long spiel about genetic composition, animals and religion by concluding:
"We need a kind of evolutionary upgrade. Otherwise we're just plunging more people into misery, which is enhanced by technology, but is misery nonetheless. But I can't really get all of this into songs. So that's why I'm giving you my world view."
Hitchcock did, however, provide this succinct overview of Love From London:
"The songs came from London and a lot of them are love songs. It's a very literal description of the way the songs are. It's a fairly good-hearted record. I'm not wishing too much ill will on anybody. There's a rant about the decline of capitalism ('Fix You'), but otherwise I'm generally being pretty friendly. For me, it's a pretty upbeat record."
Environmental concerns are also touched on, which isn't surprising since Hitchcock took part in the 2008 Cape Farewell expedition to the west coast of Greenland to help raise awareness of the effects of climate change, and he's noted rainfall and temperature patterns changing in London over the past 15 years. But he offered no easy solutions to the problem.
"There's a projected sea level rise of several meters by the end of the century because of a rise in temperature of several centigrade because nobody wants to give up their cars, and people like me don't want to stop flying because that's how we make a living," he says. "I could fly around the world telling people not to fly. The problem is that the mechanisms we've set up to live by are destructive, but it's very difficult to change them.
"It's as if we've taken off in a plane and someone said halfway, 'We have to stop burning aviation fuel and we're going to have to do this on electricity.' What are we going to do, change the engines while we're flying? We can't just put life on hold while we rewire and restructure our energy systems."
Hitchcock turned 60 on March 3 and played a special concert in London where he was joined by some of his favorite British musicians to perform one song from each of his albums, starting with Love From London and working back through his solo efforts to his work with The Egyptians and finally to his '70s material with neo-psychedelic, post-punk act the Soft Boys.
Hitchcock's Saturday gig at the Ginger Man in Austin, Texas as part of the South by Southwest Music Festival will feature the Minus 5, Ken Stringfellow, Jon Langford, Kelly Hogan and other still unnamed surprise artists performing his songs with him. A similar guest-filled concert, curated by the Decemberists' Colin Meloy will take place in San Francisco on May 2 as part of a seven-date American tour with the Venus 3 and Buck's band opening.
"You'll get your fill of men over 50 with electric guitars," said Hitchcock, who claims he has offers to play in Canada in early September but hasn't confirmed anything. He'd prefer if they were solo acoustic shows.
"The electric guitar is alright, but it has a lot more baggage. You have to have an amplifier and pedals and someone to set the stuff up and carry all the shit around. I'm too old to haul around amplifiers. I have back problems. I have hernia problems. I'm lazy and I can't be hauling gear. And then you plug it in and turn it on and you can't hear yourself sing. I just think, 'Screw it. I'm too old for this.'"