It all started with the Soft Boys. Somebody made me a copy of their odds ‘n sods collection Invisible Hits, an assortment of leftovers so good that other bands would be proud to call them the main course. My Maxell cassette of that album got so many spins that I nearly wept when it eventually got destroyed in the car stereo of a friend. This was before Robyn got a major label deal with A&M Records, you understand, so Invisible Hits was totally out of print and the friend that made the copy, well, like your pot dealer in college, he was long gone.
Add to this, a chick that I really thought I had a connection with, a music hipster no less, mentioned that she really liked that album after I played it. So like a schmuck, I found a tremendously priced import copy of the album and, are you sitting down, gave it to her as a Christmas gift, an action that haunts me to this day, especially considering the emotional guillotine that is falling in love with someone more than they actually love you.
I stitched my head back on when I found another copy for myself and christened myself a Robyn Hitchcock disciple. He sang songs to me that sounded great stoned and they sounded just as good sober, although the words became a tad more warped.
And since that time, Robyn Hitchcock has not released a dud yet. Some better than others, yes, but none would fall into the category of unlistenable, horrible, or Down In The Groove. I use the Dylan reference there because, in my mind, Hitchcock shares equal billing with Bobby, and as far as consistency is concerned Robyn’s got a better batting average.
And whereas Dylan released a book called Tarantula, Hitchcock’s released a new album called Olé Tarantula that maybe isn’t as good as Modern Times but I’ll probably end up spinning it more. Sorry, Bob.
Stylistically, Hitchcock has about three or four different formulas: folkie, jangle-psychedelia, jangle-pop, and a culmination of the three. Olé Tarantula finds Robyn back in the jangle-pop vein, just like the initial A&M days when major labels actually pondered the idea of his commercial potential without questioning what the hell a balloon man was.
Now that he’s on a more appropriate indie, he can meander between his styles freely and we’re left with yet another awesomely un-groundbreaking effort that leaves me a happy fanboy and you with an album that you’ll probably forget about buying.
So is this the part where I tell you R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck is on it, as is The Young Fresh Fellows‘ Scott McCaughey, and that he’s written a song with XTC‘s Andy Partridge? Do I tell you he’s written a lovely song about the late New York Doll, Arthur Kane? How about the fact that it contains the absolutely best song about spider eggs hatching in your windowsill ever written? Like any of this is enough for you to download it immediately or run down to the record store and buy it.
I secretly hope that you will.
Olé Tarantula stands up next to Robyn’s best work and is as good of place as any for you to start and become a fanboy yourself. Just don’t do something stupid and give your copy to someone you think you’re in love with. Trust me: you’ll regret it.