NPR logo A Whimsical Eccentric Gets Nakedly Emotional

A Whimsical Eccentric Gets Nakedly Emotional

N.Y. Doll

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Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "N.Y. Doll"
  • Artist: Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3
  • CD: Ole! Tarantula
  • Genre: Pop-Rock

Robyn Hitchcock has been playing the role of lighthearted lunatic for three decades now. Fred Sanjar hide caption

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Fred Sanjar

One advantage of being an eccentric by trade is that dropping it all for a moment of naked emotionalism can generate a greater impact than if that had been part of the game plan all along. Robyn Hitchcock has been playing the role of whimsical lunatic for three decades now, and while linear songs like "N.Y. Doll" pop up from time to time throughout his catalog, it still hits with the shock of the unexpected.

Writing the song from the perspective of late New York Dolls bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane, Hitchcock smartly opts not to copy the Dolls' pre-punk strut and roar. Instead, he sticks to what he knows, working with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck (continuing a collaboration that dates back to the late '80s) to slowly stretch the guitar jangle until it ripples and pulses with the hum of psychedelia.

With that as a backdrop, the story Hitchcock has to tell is relatively straightforward. Instead of using his talent for randomness to obfuscate, he dips into it instead to draw connections that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It's an imagined biography, to be sure, but in Hitchcock's hands, it's also an empathetic one.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Ole! Tarantula
Robyn Hitchcock

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