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Ole! Hitchcock!

Robyn Hitchcock - Ole! Tarantula
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 27, 2006
Robyn Hitchcock

Review by Tony Bonyata

Having recorded for the last thirty years it's a wonder English pop wunderkind Robyn Hitchcock isn't better known than he is. He's not only been around since the early days of U.K. punk with his own original punk / new wave band The Soft Boys, but he's also delivered a wealth of albums over the years under both his own name, as well as better known efforts with his backing band The Egyptians - the latter which managed to make an impact with American college radio in the late '80s and early '90s with under-the-radar hits such as "Balloon Man" and "So You Think You're In Love."

Leaving behind the more Dylan-esque folk leanings that influenced his last two previous efforts - 2003's Luxor and 2004's Spooked - the 53 year-old musician has returned to the quirky, exuberant, eccentric pop from his days with The Egyptians on his brilliant new ten-track collection entitled Ole! Tarantula. On it, the London-born musician enlists the talents of his latest and, arguably, most spirited and entertaining collection of musicians of Hitchcock's career with The Venus 3 (which consists of R.E.M.'s guitarist Peter Buck, Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey on bass and Ministry's drummer Bill Rieflin).

This supergroup of sorts packs on the perfect amount of sinewy muscle to Hitchcock's often twisted pop masterpieces. Songs such as the driving rocker "Adventure Rocket Ship" which jump-starts the record, along with the Syd Barrett-kissed pop of "The Authority Box," complete with Buck's guitar howling from the buzzing, punchy pop as if lumbering from a prehistoric tarpit, proves that age hasn't slowed Hitchcock down a bit in creating inventive, youthful rock. Beatle-like harmonies swirl through the whip-smart pop rock of "Underground Sun," "'Cause It's Love (Saint Parallelogram)" as well as the lazy southern swagger of the title track, while The Venus 3 turns the homespun honey-folk of Hitchcock's "Belltown Ramble" into a jaunty Sunday ride, most notably with McCaughey's sweetly na´ve piano-line in the driver's seat of this enduring jalopy. And while the sincere stripped-down balladry of "N.Y. Doll" is the musical antithesis of the number's subject matter (the New York Dolls' late bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane) it's an endearing, melody-driven tribute that makes a beautiful closing to this gorgeous hook-filled collection of challenging pop from one of rock's finest.

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