Robyn Hitchcock

Eye

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Six years after his superb I Often Dream of Trains, Robyn Hitchcock returned to the acoustic format of that album with Eye, and while the surfaces of the two albums are similar and Eye was eagerly embraced by fans, the tone of the two discs is considerably different. I Often Dream of Trains was a collection of songs written as Hitchcock was slowly returning to a career in music after a two-year layoff, and there's a striking if subtle power in the occasional tentative moments and understated tone. Eye, on the other hand, is a far more confident album, and Hitchcock's performances boast a precision that befits a musician who had been recording and touring at a steady clip for the past six years, especially in his splendid guitar work. The surreal whimsy of I Often Dream of Trains also takes a backseat on Eye, replaced by the relative clarity of "Cynthia Mask," an idiosyncratic but unblinking condemnation of Britain's failings during World War II, "Raining Twilight Coast," a point-of-view profile of various emotional hurts, and "Queen Elvis," a meditation on the effects of fame; the most Eye can offer in the way of humor is "Clean Steve" and "Certainly Clickot." But if Eye isn't the understated masterpiece I Often Dream of Trains was, it's Hitchcock's most consistent and satisfying album of the '80s; the songs are intelligent, effective and don't rely on his eccentricities to work, while the melodies are winning and his vocals are beautifully modulated. While Eye lacks Hitchcock's exciting electric guitar work, it's still the best representation of his music from a period when he made a couple of good records but few great ones.

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