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Speakers' corner
Black Snake Diamond Röle

Following up our retro scope series of 2006 and 2007, 2009 and 2010 - here's the ever-continuing, never-stopping New Speakers' corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves/vaults of rock. This piece will re-visit a 30 year old solo debut album by an artist still going steady as rock, and who visited Oslo a fortnight ago. He's even hailed the city with his 2009 record, Goodnight Oslo. And, his latest offering is even the Norwegian-released, oddly entitled Tromsø, Kaptein (where he even sings Norwegian, on the album's closing "Godnatt Oslo"). Hail, Captain Robyn!

coverpic Robyn Hitchcock
Black Snake Diamond Röle
Armageddon Records

Less than a year after The Soft Boys put out their final album, Underwater Moonlight, and broke up, Hitchcock presented his first solo record. The players included his former Soft Boy mates Kimberley Rew (guitar), Matthew Seligman (bass) and Morris Windsor (drums). Among the other contributors are drummer Vince Ely (of The Psychedelic Furs), guitarist Knox (a.k.a. Ian Carnochan) and producer Pat Collier (both members of the Vibrators), and Thomas Dolby (simply credited as Tom Dolby, and for adding 'ocean'). It's been a while since I listened to this platter. Right, as it's been 30 years since its release, it was just the right time to do so.

Black Snake Diamond Röle, not to be confused with The Soft Boys' "Black Snake Diamond Rock" (later added to upgraded versions of Underwater Moonlight), isn't far from The Soft Boys in style. It's maybe not so immediate, or entertaining as The Soft Boys albums. But, that said, the comic side of Hitchcock shines through with songs like "Do Policemen Sing?". The album's working title was supposedly 'Zinc Pear' - and the front cover (a zinc grey picture) shows Hitchcock holding a pear. The artwork is by Hitch himself, as is the The Enchanted Sewer; a penned/inked comic on the inner sleeve - with a rather eccentric/absurd story (please don't ask me to translate, or explain it). Anyway, the album kicks off with "The Man Who Invented Himself", which is quite a trademark Hitchcock title and ditto lyrics: "When you're waiting for your baby to get back from the moon / And throw her arms around you, in a fairly quiet lagoon / Well that loneliness is nothing, just imagine how he feels / He's the only person in the world who still believes he's real / He's the fellow, the man who invented himself". Then comes the more punchy and rocking "Brenda's Iron Sledge", which proves that Hitchcock can write catchy rockers. "Do Policemen Sing?" is quite different, being both amusing and intricate. "The Lizard" and "Meat" are more related to The Only Ones. The latter being the toughest and coolest track on side one of the LP. Is that the punky attitude added by Knox?

Black Snake Diamond Röle holds ten tracks, and "Acid Bird", a classic Robyn Hitchcock song, opens side 2 of the album. This is a The Beatles meets the Kinks type song, but of course with Hitchcock's signature as well. "I Watch The Cars" is another tough and cool track, on the more punky side (no, this one's without Knox). "Out of the Picture" (this one with Knox) is another song circling the Only Ones' paths. Which is a good thing. Yet, I'm sorry to say I find Black Snake Diamond Röle a bit bleak (weaker than I thought) at this re-visit/re-listen. But, I'm happy to say Hitchcock's recorded a fine line of album throughout his seemingly never-ending career. Check our review of his latest offering this moonth. I'm also really looking forward to hearing/seeing him perform I Often Dream of Trains (1984) at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival (curated by Jeff Mangum!!) in December.

Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Robyn Hitchcock articles/reviews: Love From London, Man Upstairs, Tromsø, Kaptein.

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