Review by LarryG|
3½ stars out of 4
For 20 years, Robyn Hitchcock has been one of the weirdest, most interesting
and best writers around. He's usually been able to find interesting musical
settings to present his surreal tales. However, much of his 90's
work has been fairly austere musically. Respect, released after Hitchcock's
father died, was even uncharacteristically subdued lyrically, with the
exception of the wacky Wafflehead and the Yip Song. Jewels For Sophia is
a triumphant return to his peak form of Fegmania and Element of Light.
Hitchcock seems to have regained confidence in his writing and his playing.
Jewels For Sophia has silly, fun moments as well as touching, well written
songs and it is also relatively polished. Since he broke up the Egyptians,
Hitchcock has mostly worked solo acoustic. Here he benefits from good
musical support, including from long time supporter, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck,
and Young Fresh Fellows on Viva Sea-Tac and Elizabeth Jade. Hitchcock's
sense of humor is in fine form. Viva Sea-Tac is a mock tribute to the
northwest: "it's got the best computers and coffee and smack."
Cheese Alarm is about needing help for his cheese addiction. It's classic
Hitchcock when he sings of Antwoman "with her Audrey Hepburn
feelers". He makes the bizarre declaration, "being just
contaminates the void" and then urges the audience to sing along.
The song slows down to a cool keyboard line to focus on the line, "She
rises and she hops and then she eats you/I ain't gonna argue with a dame
like that." The cd ends with an extra, uncredited track mostly about
how Gene Hackman's "in every film."
The record is also fun musically. The songs with Hitchcock's old Soft Boys
partner Kimberly Rew are especially good. Sally Was a Legend is a Byrdsy
easy rock. NASA Clapping has a great breakneck pace and a fun harmonica
from Hitchcock. The song is apparently about NASA clapping because
Hitchcock's found true love, as had been predicted by Buzz Aldrin. It
also contains a prediction of cows and jails on the moon until we
contaminate it so much that it "becomes a shrieking skull."
Jewels for Sophia also has some great quieter moments when he's basically
on his own. You've Got a Sweet Mouth on You, Baby is a nice, fairly
straight love song. No, I Don't Remember Guilford (also included on the
soundtrack to the good Jonathan Demme movie about Hitchcock, Storefront
Hitchcock) is a beautiful, wistful song about not remembering the past.
Only the title track is a little too heavy. Jewels For Sophia is the
great, rich work of a brilliant writer and performer.