Picks and Pans Review: Invisible Hitchcock

updated 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Robyn Hitchcock

Because the ballads of the '60s now qualify as old-fogey music, college kids are looking for a new troubadour. Some of them have found one in Hitchcock, former leader of the British band the Soft Boys. Element of Light, Hitchcock's sixth solo album, released in November, is already his biggest hit. But here comes the bad news: Even the slicker-than-usual production fails to make it a great album. With a nasal but still expressive voice, Hitchcock sings stream-of-consciousness lyrics that hark back to a time when dropping acid and writing songs were synonymous. The typically oddball love song If You Were a Priest (the album's first single) proclaims: "If you were a priest/I would wait at least/Up until confession time/And crawl into your box/Breathing like a fox/Hunting for obsession time." Though his light and beautiful Airscape shows that he and his backup band, the Egyptians, can make their eccentric style work, Hitchcock at other times drifts too far off into his own imaginings. Lady Waters & the Hooded One, about a masked lady's encounter with death, is arty and pretentious and shows his bad habit of awkwardly reordering sentences to make rhymes fit. He can do much better, as he shows on the new Invisible Hitchcock. This compilation of unreleased outtakes dating from 1980 to 1985 includes catchy pop songs (All I Wanna Do Is Fall in Love), exotic synthesizer rhythms (Messages of Dark) and lots of laughs. Point It at Gran parodies the trend toward tasteless lyrics with a funny theme much too offensive to repeat. Blues in A is a punchy send-up of the down-and-out song style. Despite such high points, Hitchcock's aural musings are too gimmicky to make him a major voice of this decade. Neither of these albums will have the lasting meaning that, say, old Dylan discs still have for those former college kids, now in their 40s. (Relativity)

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