Once A Day

Nick West's reviews for Bucketfull Of Brains and Rock'N'Reel

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Co-editor and publisher of Bucketfull Of Brains since 1996.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3

Ole Tarantula

Proper PRPCD 028

It’s always grand to get a new Robyn record but Ole Tarantula is a particular treat. Last year’s shows with the Minus 3 who have now turned into the Venus 3 had set us up very nicely, and over the last year they went on playing consistently. When not Robyn’s band there was the Minus 5, there was work with John Wesley Harding, and probably other stuff too. And they did have a bit of previous with the live REM. So while the recordings with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings that made up Spooked were certainly interesting this is, in Robyn terms, the real deal.

Along with Messrs Buck, McCaughey, and Reiflin we find two other Soft Boys, Morris and Kim, in attendance, plus Colin Izod on horns, and a brief appearance from Ian McLagan. And they’ve come up with what seems to be the absolute perfect Robyn Hitchcock album. It’s got everything; the typical humour, surrealism, sci-fi craziness, and shaggy-dog stories. The obliquely odd references to film and rock’n’roll, but here with some added poignancy. There’s as ever psych, folk, garage, a bit of 70’s funk, all blended together to create a marvellous chocolate box of delights.

‘Adventure Rocketship’ makes a grand beginning, accelerating towards the stars in a slightly ‘Telstar’-ish fashion, and is followed by ‘Underground Sun’, written for a dead friend but celebratory rather than maudlin. Almost-Memphis horns open ‘The Museum Of Sex’, in the course of which Robyn actually declaims, “music is the antidote to the world of pain and sorrow”. In case this worries, within a few songs he’s back to “fuck me baby, I’m a trolley bus”.

‘Belltown Ramble’ is a jaunty wander round Seattle that has great percussion, perhaps kettle drums, unsurprisingly it goes a bit loopy, and possibly has a cameo role for Ken Stringfellow. ‘A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations Briggs’ is where Dirty Harry meets Bob Dylan and ‘The Authority Box’ has a strange kind of Roger Waters’ brutality to it in parts. But last is best, being the lovely ‘N.Y.Doll’.

‘N.Y.Doll’ is a memorial to Arthur Kane. It plays on his final job as a librarian at the Mormon Church’s genealogy centre in LA and there’s a beautiful guitar trail running through it, shadowing the vocals while McLagan’s organ gradually manifests itself. A worthy tribute, with the necessary gravity being balanced by a smart, but finally stark, lyric: “sincerely I remain, Arthur Kane”. You can get the album for this alone, but you must stay and be warmed by the rest.

The Museum Of Robyn Hitchcock


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