By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Genius is the main ingredient in rock eccentricity: Without it, you're Sammy Hagar; too much, and you're Brian Wilson. Robyn Hitchcock has always been one of rock's great eccentrics, writing songs with a point of view that seems to float out from under a different-colored sky, yet still connective.
Moss Elixir was born out of Hitchcock's growing suspicion that his studio efforts were becoming overly produced. Stripped down to Hitchcock's voice and acoustic guitar and only slightly augmented by guests like violinist Deni Bonet and the British band Homer, Elixir sounds like a cross between 1990's Eye and 1984's brilliant I Often Dream of Trains.
Elixir ties up Hitchcock's past and present with a neatness that only comes from essence. The roots are still there--musings on identity ("Man with a Woman's Shadow"), inadvertent psychedelic iconography ("Beautiful Queen"), and beautiful, evening-colored rumination ("The Speed of Things")--but are presented with a warmth that shows that Hitchcock, at one time fascinated/obsessed with reptilian and insect imagery, is continuing his exploration of what he once called "the four-chambered heart." Spare, occasionally lonely, and often lovely, Elixir is full of mammalian promise.
Here Comes The Summer
Square Target Records
Northern Ireland's Undertones has long been acknowledged as one of the most important bands to emerge from late '70s Britain. While the band wrote undeniably catchy songs about "chocolate and girls," there always seemed to be something missing: When it played "Teenage Kicks," it didn't sound like the musicians needed excitement; it sounded like they needed a glass of warm milk and a nap. The Undertones' greatest knack now seems to have been for writing great songs that always sounded better when played by someone else; whatever else it spells for the band's legacy, it at least helps make the dreaded tribute album welcome.
All of the bands on this compilation--Pansy Division, The Queers, The Figgs etc.--stay fairly true to the originals, adding their unique twists. Two bands stand out: Canadian trio Cub and Dallas' UFOFU. Cub does its best Go-Go's imitation on the title track, and UFOFU delivers a faithful take on "Wednesday Week," complete with hand claps. This is a worthy addition to any Undertones fan's collection.