Robyn Hitchcock: The Man Upstairs (Yep Roc) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Robyn Hitchcock

The Man Upstairs

Yep Roc

Aug 22, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

"Yet another elegiac record. It's reminiscent of I Often Dream of Trains," Robyn Hitchcock has said of The Man Upstairs, his 20th proper full-length as a solo artist.

That he's chosen one of his greatest achievements as a point of reference for the mild pleasures of The Man Upstairs shouldn't be read as arrogance or delusion. The comparison to his 1984 masterwork is inevitable, as his latest trades in a nearly replicated sonic blueprinting. The mood is dourly dreamy, and aside from occasional interjections of delay, reverb, and backing vocals, the focus remains on Hitchcock's voice and acoustic guitar.

His chief collaborator here is Joe Boyd, the mythical producer/promoter who recorded the hushed masterworks of Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan, and helped harness the maverick energy of early, Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd. In fact, Boyd's production credits practically read like a laundry list of Hitchcock's psych-folk influences.

Together, they file down the post-modern anxieties that energized the singer/songwriter's best '80s work, and up the nostalgia factor. The Man Upstairs is nearly dominated by unremarkable covers, often of songs dating from Hitchcock's own heyday and formative years, such as "To Turn You On" (Roxy Music) and "The Crystal Ship" (The Doors). Even standout original "Comme Toujours" is the realization of an unfinished original dating back to 1980.

Unlike Trains, this is no young man's expansive, despairing dream of forthcoming gray years. Now that this former Soft Boy has actually hit his 60s, the reality appears to be unexpectedly mellow and cozy. It can't be easy to mine such territory for inspiration, so we can hardly blame Hitchcock for opting to look backward at a crown jewel. Trains remains a fantasy world that, remarkably, pulses with real-life dread and wonder. Conversely, The Man Upstairs plays like one protracted sigh of acceptance. (

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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