ROBYN HITCHCOCK & THE VENUS 3
By now, if you’re a regular visitor to the Power of Pop, you’d realize that one of the feathers in my rock journo cap was interviewing Robyn Hitchcock over the phone, back when he was still with Warners, promoting Moss Elixir (1996). During the course of the interview, Robyn appeared to have given up somewhat on the rock music he had been writing and performing for the last decade or so (with the Egyptians) – which shocked me, cos I’d loved them all! And wanted to do more folky acoustic stuff.
That said, the next couple of albums Robyn delivered were full rock band affairs viz. Jewels For Sophia (1999) & A Star For Bram (2000). In between the two, he left Warners, released a couple of low-key acoustic folk albums independently viz. Robyn Sings (2002) & Luxor (2003), not to mention a Soft Boys reunion in Nextdoorland.
2004 witnessed Robyn surprisingly signed with vaunted indie label Yep Roc and Spooked emerged, a country folk-blues collaboration with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
As great as these releases were, there was a gnawing feeling amongst Robyn watchers that a return to the psychedelic folk rock blues for which Robyn is legendary was around the corner. Well, here it is!
With the likes of Peter Buck (REM), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), Bill Rieflin (Ministry) – all of whom also serve in The Minus Five – together with Kimberley Rew & Morris Windsor (Soft Boys), Ian McLagan (Faces) and Sean Nelson (Harvey Danger) on board, Robyn has seen fit to fully embrace his musical history – every facet – to produce a collection of songs that may just be his strongest since Perspex Island and Respect.
So is Olè Tarantula the album rabid Robyn fans (like meself) have been waiting for? Most definitely! Savour the psychedelic rave-ups (“Adventure Rocket Ship”), the dynamic pop wonders (“Underground Sun” & “’Cause It’s Love (Saint Parallelogram)” – co-written with Andy Partridge), sleek & smooth oddities (“Museum of Sex,” “Red Locust Frenzy” & “The Authority Box”) and rustic Dylanesque folk-rock (“Belltown Rumble,” “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs,” the title track & “NY Doll” – a tribute to the late Arthur Kane).
Lyrically, Olè Tarantula finds Robyn broaching his usual topics – love, sex, strange insects (or even arachnids) and his own acute observations on life at large.Personally, I want to thank Robyn (& Venus 3) for giving us fan boys what we’ve been waiting for – psychedelic folk rock blues – nobody does it better! A+