I Wanna Go Backwards (Yep Roc)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Dec. 7, 2007
Robyn HitchcockI Wanna Go Backwards (Yep Roc)
Repackaging three early Hitchcock albums with a slew of bonus tracks (each also available individually), alongside a 2-CD collection of demos and B-sides, Backwards evidences the Brit iconoclast's staggering sweep through post-punk, psych-folk, and cryptically warped pop. Hitchcock's updated liner notes to 1981 debut Black Snake Dîamond Röle set the context of life-after-Lennon amidst Thatcher's ascendant English paranoia, allowing the whacked edge of "Brenda's Iron Sledge" and "I Watch the Cars" to merge with the bounce of "The Man Who Invented Himself" and brilliant prog-pop credo "Do Policemen Sing?" for a shattered tapestry of 1970s fallout and 1980s frustration. Supported by fellow former Soft Boys, along with Thomas Dolby and Psychedelic Furs' Vince Ely, the eight bonus studio outtakes anticipate Hitchcock's future work while also harbingering shoegaze and 1990s Britpop. 1984's phenomenal I Often Dream of Trains, augmented with six additional cuts, balances Hitchcock's relentless fluctuation between bizarre and beautiful – the playful a cappella "Uncorrected Personality Traits" against the stunning title track and "Cathedral." Eye stands as the recovered gem of the set, the 1990 return to Trains' stripped acoustics featuring Hitchcock's voice at its most melodically powerful through the biting ("Cynthia Mask," "Queen Elvis") and poignant ("Executioner," "Century"). The collection of extras drawn from Hitchcock's 1980s archives, lovingly titled While Thatcher Mauled Britain, is predictably high and low through droning psychedelics, pliant ballads, and half-developed works, yet demos of "Raymond Chandler Evening" and "My Favourite Buildings," along with the unreleased "I Wanna Go Backwards," are worth the detour.