Moss Elixir, Robyn Hitchcock's first album of new material in three years, is something of a comeback. He'd begun to sound like a guest on his own recordings--on his last couple efforts with his band the Egyptians, slick production and displays of technically proficient playing took precedence over the songs. So Hitchcock disbanded the group and stayed out of the studio, apparently until he knew he could keep the focus where it belonged. On the new disc his ringing guitar and gently Lennon-influenced singing are right up front, and other instruments appear only when the songs really ask for them. Hitchcock hasn't sounded so engaged since 1990's Eye (which was, probably not coincidentally, his last record without a band). The tunes are vintage Hitchcock, with rich, graceful melodies and lyrics that are by turns goofy and contemplative. The best songs are steeped in an awareness of mortality, sometimes as a foe ("Filthy Bird") and other times as a familiar companion ("The Speed of Things" and "You and Oblivion"), while the lighter ones keep the record from getting ponderous. Hitchcock opens for Billy Bragg. Wednesday, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Robyn Hitchcock.