Since forming The Soft Boys in the late 70s Robyn Hitchcock has remained a prolific song writer and recording artist. His 19th solo album Love from London features a bit of London, a lot of love and a giant green eye on the cover. That’s typical of Hitchcock’s music; sounds and themes that are familiar mixed with the surreal and unexpected.
Such is the case with opener “Harry’s Song,” a piano driven piece of alt-rock in which “an albatross punctuates the sky” and “pterodactyls hang above the broken sea.” “I Love You” on the other hand is a straight forward love song, the only nod to surrealism being a line about invisible tendrils growing between us which, as anyone who has been in love knows, is exactly what happens.
Hitchcock seems to spend a lot of time watching women. “Be still” is an obsessive description of an enigmatic protagonist set over a rousing arrangement of guitar, piano and strings. “Strawberries Dress” is a dreamy ballad to a woman in the aforementioned attire. “Fix You” is an anthem for all those hit by debt, redundancy and recession driven by distorted rock guitar. It’s a situation in which Hitchcock’s topsy-turvy imagination perfectly matches the real world. “They sell you things with the money that you never had, then they want it all back,” he cries before asking, “now that you’re broke who’s going to fix you up?”
On each song different instruments and styles combine to accompany Hitchcock’s distinctive voice: tabla on light pop number “Stupefied,” roughed up blues on “Devil on a String” and ambient electronica on “Love and Death.” The album closes in melodramatic fashion with electronic beats clashing with psychedelic lyrics on “End of Time” which closes with distant voices repeating “love from London” as waves crash and the music warps and fades.
As he turns 60 Hitchcock shows little sign of slowing down and Love from London is an album that will delight his fans. Less discerning listeners might dismiss the songs as run-of-the-mill missing the original lyrics that provide surprises and amusement throughout. It’s an album that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but adds an extra corner and somehow makes it go faster.