Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Robyn Hitchcock 2: Groovy Decay

Just when he was off to something of a good start, Robyn immediately derailed his momentum with his next album. He’s gone on the record as saying that the ordeal of completing it sent him into a self-imposed two-year exile.
So is Groovy Decay that bad? Well, it certainly isn’t very good. The album is harsh and cold, heavy on saxophones. Being the early ‘80s, it seems designed for dancing by the types of people sporting Robyn’s haircut and polka-dot shirts. Some songs stand out, particularly “Fifty Two Stations”, “America” and “The Cars She Used To Drive”. “Night Ride To Trinidad” is an inferior copy of “Grooving On An Inner Plane”, but at least “St. Petersburg” provides quieter contrast.

Three years later, once he’d got his bearings back, he released a rejigged version of the album. Now called Groovy Decoy, it not only changed the track order, but substituted five of the tracks with earlier demo versions produced by Soft Boy Matthew Seligman. It added two old B-sides into the mix—“It Was The Night” and the wacky “How Do You Work This Thing?” It still wasn’t an improvement on the earlier version. We’d almost say the best songs are the ones which weren’t recorded twice, but that’s not always the case.

Rhino, being the good completists that they are, convinced him to combine the two Groovy albums on one jam-packed disc. Gravy Deco brought everything together under the same roof (with the exception of the alternate “Grooving On A Inner Plane”, which had been put back in the context of Black Snake Diamond Role) and added two more obscure mixes. Which was nice of them, but no matter how you slice it, these recordings simply aren’t very enjoyable.
Robyn’s hatred of the album continued to this century, where following the Yep Roc reissue program it’s only available as a download—naturally, missing one song from the canon (the demo of “Midnight Fish” from Decoy) and in its place, the decent “Falling Leaves”, which had been a highlight of an earlier rarities collection. So if you really want Groovy Decay, you can get it. But once you’ve had it, you may well wonder if it was worth the bother.

Robyn Hitchcock Groovy Decay (1982)—2
Robyn Hitchcock Groovy Decoy (1985)—2
Robyn Hitchcock Gravy Deco (1995)—2
Current CD equivalent: none; download only

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