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April 14, 1995 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-04-14

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~ ' 'As part of the Department of Theatre and Drama's Basement Arts
series, BFA senior Chuck Goodin is directing Eugene O'Neill's one-act
g gplay, "Hughie." BFA seniors Paul Molnar and Nick de Abruzzo comprise
the cast of what has been called "O'Neill's finest short play."
Performances are at 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Arena Theatre Page 9
in the basement of the Frieze Building; admission is free. Friday
April 14.1995
Robyn Hitchcock comes out of oblivion

y Dirk Schulze
Daily Arts Writer
For 20 years, first as a founder of the
legendary Cambridge band the Soft Boys
'and later as both a solo artist and leader of
an outfit known as the Egyptians, Robyn
'Hitchcock has been making some of the
mostwonderfully skewedpop music avail-
able anywhere. Although he has never
gold too many records, he has influenced
ageneration of musicians with his concise
Wsongcraft and twisted, often poetic, lyrics.
With the Soft Boys, Hitchcock
mined a psychedelic vein far to the
left of the trends of the mid and late
I970s. It failed to catch a corporate
fire, but the its sound helped spawn
the Byrdsy ring of REM and other
college rock staples of the 1980s.
Later, he made a series of increas-
ingly self-assured recordings, each of
*which, despite their varied sounds,
focused on his unique personality and
musical vision. Rhino has reissued
eight of these albums and a collection
of previously unreleased songs on
CD, each with extensive liner notes,
art and bonus tracks. Unlike many
other similar reissue projects,
Hitchcock was quite involved with
the process.
"Nothing was done without my ap-
Sproyal," he said. "They didn't just give
me the money and say, 'Okay,
Hitchcock, now we're going to reinter-
pret your entire career. I was respon-
sible for finding pictures and three-

track demos, getting tapes out of my
mother's roof and tracking down tapes
I didn't even know really existed."
As he made his way through the 1980s
andinto the'90s, Hitchcock foundhimself
making increasingly glossy recordings
with the Egyptians. After the stripped-
down sound of the mostly one-man show
"Eye," from 1990,Hitchcockrealizedthat
the time of his backing band might be
coming toanend.'"It justgotfadedafterso
ROBYN 16
HITCHCOCK
Where: The Ark
When: Tonight at 7 and 10 p.m.
Tickets: $11.75 in advance
long," he said."Ifelt that the band wasn't
necessarily the best vehicle for my songs
anymore as we grew more professional.
You have watch what you're doing or
everythingjustsortofslidesoffintoapile
of seamlessness and overdubs, and you
shimmer off into the distance like Bryan
Ferry and there's nothing leftbutthepack-
aging. Iwanttogettheessenceofthesongs
out otherwise the production and the song
end up competing with each other."
There is a certain ahead-of-its-time
quality to all ofHitchcock's recordings.
It is never that they could not have been
commercial successes, it is just that
they were never in the right place at the
right time. The Soft Boys cut their teeth
during the punk revolution and made

their best record, 1980's slice o' chim-
ing psychedelia "Underwater Moon-
light" while new wave ruled the radio.
After almost breaking onto the charts
with 1989's "Queen Elvis" and the
"Madonna of the Wasps" single, he
retreated from public view and made
the bare-bones, hushed, acoustic mas-
terpiece "Eye." When he returned with
another shining pop album (1991's soar-
ing, Beatlesque "Perspex Island"), Nir-
vana shot to the top of the playground
heap and grunge was the magic word of
the moment.
Now that the post-post-post-punk
of Green Day and Offspring is king,
Hitchcock has embarked on a solo
tour, playing his songs mostly alone
with an acoustic guitar. Not exactly
the most commercial of moves, but
Hitchcock is quick to point out that he
is not retreating into folk music. "It's
still rock music, just without a band.
They're still my songs but now it's
just me singing them. I used to make
them up alone around the kitchen
table and now I'm performing them
alone again."
Rather than anticipating the next
movement of the collective popular
music whim and acting accordingly,
Hitchcock isworkingon anotheralbum
alone and at his leisure, recording when
he wishes and adding other instruments
when he wants. As usual, he is working
towards writing four times as many
songs as he will eventually need, the

reason for the two collections of
unreleased material, 1986's "Invisible
Hitchcock" and the fresh "You and
Oblivion."
Despite his apparent bent toward
an unrelievably prolific pen, he never
forces songs. "You can tell when
you've got a song in you and when
you haven't," he said. "They come
out of a sort of blind spot and if you
put a light on them they tend to disap-
pear. They come from wherever
you're not looking and as soon as you
become self-conscious about it, they
dry up. That's why I can't write songs
about topics, otherwise I would write
lots of songs about Rush Limbaugh
and Newt Gingrich or their British
equivalents."
If the songs that do come out of his
blind spot occasionally defy interpreta-
tion, Hitchcock claims it is because they
arenot usually aboutspecifictopics. "A lot
of them don't necessarily have subjects,"
he said. "They're more just a way of
looking at things, different meditations on
death and time and the fact that your
consciousness is so intense while you
have it and goes out so quickly, like drop-
ping a match in water."
Regardless of their lyrical content,
the pop appeal of many of his songs
cannot be denied. Even the folks at
Muzak realized this fact, appropriating
"Madonna of the Wasps" for use in
elevators and shopping centers every-
where. What is preserved in their ultra-

Robyn Hitchcock is arguably one of the most underrated talents today.

light treatment of the tune is not the
question ofjust what is the Madonna of
the wasps (or swans or flies, for that
matter) but the perfect construction of
the song's verse and chorus.
Hell, charges of "sell-out" cannot
even be addressed at Hitchcock for the
Muzakization of one of his songs be-
cause the fact is, he never had anything
to sell. He never rose to the top only to
abandon his fans nor did he ever, with

the possible exception of 1982's
"Groovy Decay" give in to corporate
pressure. He wrote for the joy of writ-
ing, of telling stories, as he does now.
"Everything I do now is entirely for my
own benefit, particularly now that it's
just me and I'm not a part of a group
venture," he said. "I'm very lucky to
make a living doing what I like and do
best. I haven't yet had to go work in a
bank or become a dental hygienist."

Skid Row: The 'Youth Gone Wild' all grown up

By Kirk Miller
Daily Arts Writer
I never liked Sebastian Bach until
a month ago.
Even in Skid Row's prime, circa
1989-1991, when pop metal ruled the
charts and Bach made the cover of
Rolling Stone I thought at best they
were mediocre posers. Bach was al-
ways in the midst of explaining why
he decided to wear that particular
homophobic T-shirt or that ugly bottle
throwing incident, while Skid Row
ballads like "I Remember You"
clogged the airwaves. Ugh.
Things change. After a brilliant
surprise appearance on Comedy
Central's "Politically Incorrect" in
March where Bach stole the show
with his contagious hyperactivity (and
won the war of words over pot with
uptight guest Jerry Springer), I was
won over by his ability to say or do
anything to make a point.
"It's pretty funny when they ask a
guy like me to come on there," he
laughed. "BecauseIdon't give a fuck.
I don't think they realize what they're
getting themselves into, because be-
fore the show goes, 'Listen this is a
really wild show and we want youjust
not to wait to be asked a question. Just
talk about whatever you want.' And I
go, 'You really do? I do that any-
way."'
Bach's self-deprecating humor
and absolute belief in what he does
comes across quite well on Skid Row's
new album "Subhuman Race," a won-
derfully heavy and diverse album that
could wipe the floor with any alterna-
tive hard rock act. Years of touring
with the likes of Pantera and
Soundgarden (and possibly Biohaz-
ard shortly and definitely Slash's
Snakepit this summer) has paid off;
their mix of heavy riffs, thrash and
melodicism sorely lacking in most
bands today makes this easily their
best album and a surprise hit in grunge
/ alternative / power punk decade.
"It's funny because we started out
as an MTV band," he admitted during

our phone interview late last week.
"And now we get to prove ourselves
as a real band ... people come be-
cause they want to hear us play and
it's the greatest satisfaction."
Unfortunately for Bach and the
band their recent three-year absence
came at the worst possible time, when
hard rock was slowly being phased
out of the music channel and radio
dropped most of their '80s playlist.
However, for Skid Row their break
probably happened at just the right
time, after a grueling tour for their
"Slave to the Grind" album.
"22 months of Snake's (Dave
Sabo) armpit in my face on the tour
bus, it was like fuck, anyone would
get sick of that," he laughed. "So after
that (the tour) it was like the last thing
we wanted to do was hang out with
one another, so we took a good seven
months off. But was started in 1986,
so I think you can count on one hand
or one finger the number of bands that
started in '86 that have the same five
members in '95, and that's gotta say
something."
During the absence rumors swirled
about the band's demise, although

according to Bach that was never the
case. In that time Bach recorded an
unusual EP with members of glam
legends Hanoi Rocks, but it never
made to the record stores.
"It will come out one day, don't
you worry," he commented. "It was
just too different from 'Slave to the
Grind' for Atlantic to get their heads
around. I don't consider the audience
that stupid ... you have the fucking
bass player of Pearl Jam with his own
record label, and he burps into a mic
and people think he's the fucking
greatest thing ever. I sell over 10
million records and I can't even put
out a fucking EP."
But with his concentration focused

on Skid Row for the last year, it looks
like things have improved for the
group, at least internally.
"We were fighting," Bach admit-
ted. "Because I thought things were
taking too long, that's all. And when
I don't get my way I can be a prick;
even more so than when I do get my
way. But when I listen to 'Breakin'
Down' (off the new record) which
Snake wrote and it took him a while,
it's so inside of him, that I'm glad
whatever time off produced the music
that it produced."
"And I think with us it's quality,
not quantity," he added. "We have
four CDs out right now, butI wouldn't
See SKID ROW, page 10

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