Robyn Hitchcock

Shadow Cat

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Robyn Hitchcock is a wizard with an electric guitar and can create crackling, energetic rock & roll with the right band behind him, but sometimes it seems he's happiest when he's working all by his lonesome, and some of the finest albums in his catalog feature him in solo semi-acoustic mode (most notably I Often Dream of Trains and Eye). Shadow Cat is an accidental sibling to these works, a collection of 14 solo Hitchcock tracks recorded between 1993 and 1999, most of which haven't surfaced before (though a version of "Statue with a Walkman" appeared on the vinyl edition of Storefront Hitchcock, the same album included another take on Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary," and "The Green Boy" surfaced on the outtakes compilation A Star for Bram). Some of these tracks can be politely described as experiments that don't quite work, most notably two a cappella numbers performed with the aid of a vocoder ("Because You're Over" and "Real Dot"), and a few are simply lesser compositions that don't sound especially memorable, such as "High on Yourself" and the truncated opener "For Debbie Reynolds." But for fans who like Hitchcock best when he's in a deep and atmospheric mood, Shadow Cat certainly has its rewards, and the languid "Baby Doll," the minimal but absorbing "Beautiful Shock," the stripped-down rock guitar figures of "Never Have to See You Again," and the ominous yet playful title cut are welcome examples of what Hitchcock does so well. Shadow Cat shouldn't be mistaken for a "new" Robyn Hitchcock album, but as a sampler of odds and ends from his notebooks it rescues a few worthy songs from an obscurity they don't deserve, and it's a fine reminder of why Hitchcock is still regarded as one of the most gifted and singular British songwriters around.

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