Friday, March 07, 2008

"Beautiful Shock" / Robyn Hitchcock


Trolling around, looking for samples to post for you good folks, I discovered -- gadzooks! -- a new Robyn Hitchcock album was released last month. How could this have happened without my knowing about it? You can't turn your back on this man for a minute.

I can only admire the unfiltered creative impulses that allow Robyn Hitchcock to record and release so much material. (If only Ray Davies and Nick Lowe were this prolific.) True, not all of it is polished, tight songwriting, but then that's never been Robyn's strong suit anyway.

I've only just downloaded this album, Shadow Cat (couldn't wait for the physical CD to be delivered), and I'm still getting acquainted with it -- still testing the beds, turning on the faucets, poking into its closets. I've found with Robyn Hitchcock that the songs that eventually become my favorites don't necessarily hook me on the first listen; his music tends to enter my consciousness by mysterious passageways. Still, my first impressions tell me I'm going to like this album A LOT.

It's definitely a solo album, mostly just Robyn with an acoustic guitar. "Beautiful Shock," though, goes electric. When you listen to the lyrics, you see that was the only way, since the song is all about electricity. (A song about electricity? What is it with Robyn Hitchcock and science?) "Electricity doesn't bother me at all," Robyn starts out, his vocal breathy and conspiring. "You can turn it on / And it flows out of the wall / You can fry a man with the law on your side" -- that makes me sit up and take notice; electricity is dangerous, for true.

But from there on, it turns into a love song, and a pretty cool one, with a softly exultant chorus: "What a beautiful shock / Every moment I've got /I'm with you." Verse two is especially winning: "How did I get here? I was staring at your hair / Next thing I recall we were sharing the same bed / And the bathroom too, and the garden outside as well / Electricity was just lurking inside." Isn't that just the way love happens? I mean the long-term kind of love, the kind that doesn't usually lend itself to rock songs (not unless you're Marshall Crenshaw or Paul McCartney).

Robyn gives it his usual fresh twist, of course: "I remember you, even though you haven't gone / I remember you, you were someone remote from me / Now you hold my hand very naturally." Those deeper connections--sure, they evolve gradually, but there are moments when it takes you by surprise, and it IS a beautiful shock. There's such a giddy energy to this track, with a jubilantly jumpy melodic line and pulsating jangly guitar strums. A few clangy riffs beam in from time to time too, vibrating like radio signals. It's a very . . . well, electric number.

But hey, I've gotta go, kids. I've got a new album to explore.

Beautiful Shock sample

1 comment:

Uncle E said...

"...his music tends to enter my consciousness by mysterious passageways."
Excellent post.