Review of Goodnight Oslo Album by Robyn Hitchcock

Review of 'Goodnight Oslo' Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3's album released through Proper Records.

Robyn Hitchcock Goodnight Oslo Album

Given that Robyn Hitchcock has been releasing solo records since the early 1980s (following his stint in The Soft Boys), we are well within our rights to treat a 2009 release with some degree of trepidation. There are not many artists that manage to retain their original spark, nearly three decades after releasing a stunning solo debut (in Robyn's case, 1981's Black Snake Diamond Role).

After the sketchy disappointment of Shadow Cat, last year's rarities compilation, it was, indeed, with trepidation that I ran my thumbnail along the sellophane seal to Goodnight Oslo. I've not felt this nervous since I cracked open the last Joe Jackson album. But we won't talk about that.

Thankfully, Goodnight Oslo does not disappoint. The opening track, 'What You Is' is as beguiling as you would expect an opening track from Robyn Hitchcock to be. It's like a tamed lounge version of Nick Cave's 'Dig, Lazarus Dig!' Though I'll bet a fiver of my finest English pounds on most people baulking at that particular suggestion.

Lyrically, Hitchcock isn't quite as abstract as he used to be; he's less comical, less obviously indebted to Syd Barrett (though remnants of that particular devotion remain, nonetheless) and more grounded in the here and now of human relations. Musically, the Venus 3 do justice to Hitchcock's lyricism. It is no accident that the opening bars to 'Your Head Here' sounds like early R.E.M. as Peter Buck, R.E.M.'s revered guitarist makes up a third of The Venus 3.

So, Goodnight Oslo is not so much a return to form, as a reminder of what form really is: intelligence, verve and lyrical mastery all bound in skilled musicianship. Original spark? Check. Trepidation? Nullified.

Hayley Avron

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