I suppose I have to admit that I’m a major label fan of Robyn Hitchcock. I was with him for Globe of Frogs, Queen Elvis, and Perspex Island. Each of those albums contained Hitchcock’s signature strangeness, Beatles-influenced melodies to the weird, but they also had accessible moments. Globe of Frogs had “Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)”—a sitting-on-the-side-of-the-stage-with-a-tambourine laidback rocker. Queen Elvis had the riff-heavy, drone-like “Freeze”. And Perspex Island had the radio-friendly power pop of “So You Think You’re in Love.”
2011 brought Hitchcock’s Chronology which only featured one of those tunes, “So You Think You’re in Love.” Erstwhile, the compilation points to the strange, diverse world of Hitchcock. Unfortunately, from Globe of Frogs, the choice was “Balloon Man,” a bouncy tune that’s just too odd with its picture of a balloon man exploding with strips of flesh and tomato sauce. And yet, the collection does give you an overall picture of Hitchcock’s mad universe and penchant for indie pop rock tunes.
Yet, 2011 wasn’t without power pop. Go back and grab Ralph Covert & the Bad Examples’ Smash Record. Covert—who in his kid-friendly garb is known as Ralph’s World—lays out Beatlesque pop rock that can also conjure up memories of the Kinks. Smash Record works in the varied styles explored by the Beatles—big rock (“Big E Chord”), piano-led pop (“Pictures of a Masquerade”), and hint-of-twang-and-roll (“No Message in Your Bottle”). Think the Smithereens, and you start to get in the neighborhood. The rockabilly flashes compare to the Spanic Boys or to Ian Hunter’s recent work.
While there are certain moments of joy on Smash Record, nothing quite comes close to the power pop opener “Big E Chord.” It’s three-minutes of pure bliss dedicated to rock music. It’s big chords, clanging guitar fills, and a Traveling Wilburys/Jeff Lynne-like bridge. Those “clashing guitars” make me want to put the track on repeat—a very, very unlikely thing for me to do. (Thanks to Pop Geek Heaven for turning me onto the song).
Meanwhile, I’m hunting for a good copy of Globe of Frogs on CD, since apparently it’s out of print and not available for download. Here’s to a good hunt, because that album finds Hitchcock in fine form.