The Man Downstairs is a new self-released collection of demos from the singular, and always psychedelic Robyn Hitchcock. This record (or in this case the now quickly becoming charmingly anachronistic CD) seems to pull the off the hat trick of of being perhaps slightly better than the album proper that these rough drafts were intended for, which in case you were wondering was his 2014 album The Man Upstairs, a Judy Collins inspired collection of half covers and originals cut with legendary producer Joe Boyd. The songs presented on Downstairs share none of the same originals or cover selections with the album they were potentially intended for, making this an entirely new listening experience. Boasting a more direct and unfussy sounding approach, it features covers of such towering musical specters such as Nick Drake, Syd Barrett, Townes Van Zandt, and Bob Dylan slotted next to Robyn’s original material. The originals presented on here such as “I Pray When I’m Drunk,” and “The Threat Of Freedom” hedge into an isolated sounding acoustic mode not unlike the approach utilized by the artist on some of his most classic works like 1983’s I Often Dream of Trains, and 1990’s Eye. Given our current state of isolation, it might be time to pay a visit to the man downstairs. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a slide into autumn with a side order of existential dread.
Much like his hero Bob Dylan, psychedelic folk-rocker, Robyn Hitchcock seems to have embarked on a never-ending tour of his own. His latest single, Sunday Never Comes, seems tailor made for the merch table on said tour. Following 2017’s particularly strong self-titled effort recorded in collaboration with producer Brendan Benson, this new self-released 45 was recorded in his new adopted hometown of Nashville with a crew of local Beatles freaks (Buddy Hughen, Patrick Sansone, and Ryan Brewer), and features two new tunes which the artist himself describes as “distilling everything about The Beatles except their commercial appeal.”
He’s not wrong; Hitchcock takes the work of the fabs along with Dylan, Barrett, Reed, and Ferry (to name just a few of the canonical artists that have taken up a permanent residency in the artist’s noggin) and refracts them through his own unique musical prism. The A-side “Sunday Never Comes,” is anchored by a snaking Velvets informed guitar line that lurks under layers of tremolo, while Hitchcock’s lyrics employ a hallucinatory dream logic while simultaneously working as meditation on time and memory. The flip side, “Take Off Your Bandages,” drags the kaleidoscopic sounds of 1966 into 2019 with a track inspired by the activism of the students at Stoneman Douglas High School. For longtime fans of Robyn’s work and those new to the artist’s peculiar catalog of songs about buildings and food, this new single is either a great reminder he’s still here or a short introductory course to the artists’ modus operandi. We heartily recommend grabbing a copy before it evaporates or time destroys us all like a Mexican god.
Buy the single here (now on alluring pink vinyl) direct from the artist.