I Wanna Go Backwards – 4 stars
Black Snake Diamond Role – 3 stars
I Often Dream of Trains – 4 stars
Eye – 4 stars
While Thatcher Mauled Britain Parts 1 & 2 – 3 stars
Reissues prove Hitchcock’s still weird and elusive after all these years
Robyn Hitchcock has spent his musical career soliciting the ghosts of traditional pop songcraft while eluding the strictures of logic and meaning. His best songs are glorious messes full of absurd images, unfathomable narratives and deliberately weird characters, all partnered with tunes you can hum. His recording catalog is also a ?ne mess. Albums issued on CD with bonus tracks are now out-of-print and being parceled in altered forms (bonus tracks added and cut) and in piecemeal order.
I Wanna Go Backwards is a ?ve-CD boxed set (the individual albums also sold separately) that includes the ?rst three releases credited solely to Hitchcock (sans Egyptians): his 1981 solo debut, Black Snake Diamond Role; the 1984 and 1990 solo acoustic collections, I Often Dream of Trains and Eye; and two CDs of home demos and outtakes from 1981-88 (While Thatcher Mauled Britain Parts 1 & 2) that cherry-pick from previous outtakes collections Invisible Hitchcock (1986) and You and Oblivion, (1995) and also include a healthy selection of previously unreleased tracks.
Hitchcock’s appeal is difficult to quantify. No two fans score his output consistently. One listener’s favorite is another’s sworn enemy. And songs that initially strike a familiar chord are often eventually passed over for something more obscure. Hitchcock seems similarly attuned. He’s pulled “Mellow Together” off of Trains, removed “Dancing On God’s Thumb” from Diamond Role’s bonus tracks, shuttled “College of Ice” from Eye to the outtake collection, and added demos and outtakes wherever he saw ?t.
That said, as long as you’re not a literal-minded soul and don’t mind deliberate weirdness, “Meat,” “My Favourite Buildings,” “Flesh Cartoons” and “Linctus House” should all stimulate the appropriate pleasure centers that have enabled Hitchcock to remain a cult favorite since his late-’70s days in the Soft Boys. Then again, your mileage may vary.