Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3 – Goodnight Oslo (Yep Roc Records)

After more than thirty years in the business Robyn Hitchcock has become something of an alternative-rock institution, with a long and varied discography covering moods ranging from wild psych-punk to gentle acoustic-folk. His latest album, Goodnight Oslo, doesn’t aspire to either of those extremes. In fact it doesn’t aspire to much at all. As much as it pains me to say, he’s falling into the dreaded trappings of what I would call “old guy rock”. While the album isn’t unpleasant (and “Up To Our Nex” is a damn fine song), Hitchcock sounds less willing (or able) to push himself as an artist and performer. His vocal range and delivery is becoming more limited and he and his group The Venus 3 (featuring REM’s Peter Buck and REM side-men Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin) spend most of their time in a comfortable mid-tempo groove that never commands much attention or sticks with you long after the album ends. The lack of excitement makes Goodnight Oslo an album best recommended for Hitchcock die-hards, and not for curious listeners looking for their first taste of what Robyn Hitchcock is capable of. Anyone in that category would be better served by the recent reissues of Fegmania!, Element Of Light or I Dream Of Trains – all of them classics.


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