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ALEX COHEN, Host:

Back now with Day to Day and the music of Robyn Hitchcock.

(Soundbite of song "The Cheese Alarm")

Mr. ROBYN HITCHCOCK: (Singing) Bap bap ba rap bap bap One, two, a one, two, three, four...

COHEN: I first got into Robyn Hitchcock when I heard his song, The Cheese Alarm. I mean, how can you resist a guy who sings about Stilton, Roquefort and brie? Hitchcock has been writing music with a comic twist since the 1970s. He now has a new CD. It's called, Good Night, Oslo. Robyn Hitchcock recently sat down with music journalist, Christian Bordal, to talk about the album and to play a couple of his new songs.

(Soundbite of music)

CHRISTIAN BORDAL: Robyn Hitchcock is perhaps best known for writing songs like My Wife and My Dead Wife and The Man With the Lightbulb Head. Songs ultimately surreal and silly but with a dark undercurrent. Now, well into his 50s, Hitchcock's undercurrent is bubbling closer to the surface of his songs while the broad silliness has morphed into a subtler, more low-key sense of humor.

Mr. ROBYN HITCHCOCK (Singer and Songwriter): I don't think it's only a dark undercurrent if what's on the surface is bright. You know, if my stuff was very, very gloomy on the surface, you'd probably find it hilarious underneath. Kind of depends, doesn't it, what hits you first?

(Soundbite of song "Saturday Groovers")

Mr. HITCHCOCK: (Singing) I can smell the smoke From the lungs of the Saturday groovers Busy doing nothing when you're young Saturday groovers...

BORDAL: Robyn describes Saturday Groovers as those of his generation that never quite gave up the old ways of the 70s, though he doesn't admit to falling into that category, himself.

Mr. HITCHCOCK: I can survive for decades without grooving if I need to.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HITCHCOCK: If forced. If forced, you know, you have to be adaptable. I can groove with the best of them should it be appropriate but - it's not a problem to me not to groove. You know, I can vibrate internally.

(Soundbite of "The Cheese Alarm")

Mr. HITCHCOCK: (Singing) Ba ra rap ba Ba ra ra rap bap ba Ba ra rap ba...

BORDAL: Hitchcock's songs have always had a very loose, extemporaneous feel which is part of the charm, but which sometimes leaves them feeling a little undercooked.

Mr. HITCHCOCK: It is quite random in a way. I know that means that, you know, often my stuff perhaps sounds unfinished or it's not immediately clear when you listen to my songs what I'm singing about. On the other hand, I think that does create what I think of as a kind of the honesty of the unconscious that what you are trying to tell yourself comes through more if you don't censor it by imposing an idea on top.

(Soundbite of song "Hurry for the Sky")

Mr. HITCHCOCK: (Singing) Knock yourself out yesterday Tomorrow will be fine It's all for the best you say Somewhere down the line Everything is fine Everything is mine...

BORDAL: Part of the fun of writing extemporaneously is going back after the fact and deciding what your unconscious has been trying to communicate. In the case of the songs on Good Night, Oslo Robyn says there does seem to be a coherent theme.

Mr. HITCHCOCK: The theme seems to be one of kind of discarding negative patterns of thought. How sad it is to say goodbye to them because you're saying goodbye to part of yourself. So, it's very exciting to move on as they say in psychobabble, but it's also sad because you've got to let go of what you know and the world you are in.

(Soundbite of song "Hurry for the Sky")

Mr. HITCHCOCK: (Singing) Oh I, am in a hurry for the sky Yes, I am in a hurry for the sky...

BORDAL: Robyn Hitchcock has been writing psychedelic pop since a - well, since the time of psychedelic pop in the '70s. And musically, most of these new songs wouldn't be out of place on one of his early albums, except perhaps for the relaxed effortlessness of the arrangements and the playing. On this album, Robyn is back with his long-time collaborators, the Venus 3 - that's Peter Buck and Bill Rieflin of R.E.M., and Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5. These are players that no longer need to prove themselves to anyone. They've been playing pop music for decades and they just know how it's done. If anything, overtime they keep sloughing off musical complexity and replacing it with the simplest structures and vocal harmonies of early rock.

(Soundbite of song "Up To Our Necks")

Mr. HITCHCOCK: (Singing) We're up to our necks in love So right...

BORDAL: But if the music sounds much the same, the mood on Robyn's newest songs is definitely changing. There's less frivolity, less wild abandon more grown-up themes, more introspection. But to hear him describe it, he's just plugging away at the same old stuff.

Mr. HITCHCOCK: I don't change course very much. I mean, you know, if there's some tremendous obstacle in the way, I go around it, and if I'm up against a very powerful current, then I - like the supple reed, I bend with the wind. There's no point being inflexible where you snap. But this is where I am today which is, you know, in a pair of headphones in the middle of your head. But there are worst places.

BORDAL: And if you pick up a copy of Good Night, Oslo and put on a pair of headphones, you can experience the exact same sensation.

(Soundbite of song "Up To Our Necks")

Mr. HITCHCOCK: (Singing) Forgive yourself Forgive yourself and maybe...

BORDAL: For NPR News, this is Christian Bordal.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Music journalist Christian Bordal spoke with Robyn Hitchcock. His new CD is called Good Night, Oslo. You can hear songs from Robyn's NPR studio session at nprmusic.org. Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Cohen.

(Soundbite of song "Up To Our Necks")

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