Robyn Hitchcock | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Robyn Hitchcock

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From the pioneering psychedelic postpunk of the Soft Boys to a remarkably varied and productive solo career, Robyn Hitchcock has remained an unflagging exponent of left-side-of-the-dial pop tunesmithing. Heavily inspired by Pink Floyd founder/acid casualty Syd Barrett, Hitchcock has always loaded his songs with tripped-out whimsy, bizarre humor, and wildly imaginative and strange narratives. But labeling him the quintessential cult artist, as the press has long been wont to do, undermines his musical depth. He's not only got a fine new single out on Olympia's K Records, but Rhino Records has just finished releasing nine CDs from Hitchcock's vast catalog. All are iced with copious bonus tracks, and the new, mostly solo You & Oblivion consists of 22 previously unreleased tunes. The standout amid his rich if inconsistent body of work is 1984's I Often Dream of Trains, another mostly solo effort. Recorded after a two-year hiatus brought on by the miserable Groovy Decay, it includes the gorgeous, introspective ballads "Cathedral" and "Trams of Old London," as well as two songs that became live staples, "Uncorrected Personality Traits" and the deliriously off-balance "Sometimes I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl." Hitchcock's live gigs are notorious for his elaborate song introductions, during which his wickedly associative thought process delivers some remarkable stuff. Apparently he's almost finished a new album--for which he has no label--and chances are he'll preview some new material on this retrospective solo tour. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.

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