Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Fix You” by Robyn Hitchcock from the 2013 album Love from London on Yep Roc.
First as the frontman of the Soft Boys and later as a solo artist, Robyn Hitchcock has been writing slightly surreal, often revealing songs that split the difference between psychedelic fog and pop immediacy for more than 40 years. Hitchcock’s first musical efforts came after he moved to Cambridge, initially busking, but later forming Dennis and the Experts, who would soon change their name to The Soft Boys. Renowned for their Syd Barrett-indebted neo-psychedelia, the band’s two albums would be overshadowed by post-punk at the time of their release, but became the first entries in Hitchcocks’ now lengthy cult-beloved discography. After the Soft Boys disbanded in 1980, Hitchcock began his solo career, which has encompassed a variety of styles, all of which revolve around Hitchcock’s clever, but not always precocious, wit. Although he’s spent most of the past decade with the Venus 3 (longtime collaborators and R.E.M. members/affiliates Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin) as his backing band, his latest album, Love From London, is a solo record where Robyn allows his songwriting to run down a number of avenues, including piano-led mourning (“Harry’s Song”), funk-laden Eastern vibes, and glam rock (“Devil on a String”). Similar in tone to David Bowie’s grungy industrial-influenced mid-90s period, “Fix You” is Hitchcock at his most snarling. Although there’s traces of his trademark psychedelia in the buzzing tones that float around the song’s background, Robyn partners his furious vocal with crunching “Elephant” guitars, attacking American capitalism with no subtlety whatsoever. “Now that you’re broke/who’s going to fix you?” sings Hitchcock in the chorus before evolving into a (self-admitted) appropriation of John Lennon’s nasally yell in the bridge. Even at 60, Hitchcock sounds restless, energetic, and confident, fearlessly reappropriating part of one of the last decade’s most well-known saccharine pop tunes and turning it against the system that put it there.
Robyn is spending the winter making an East Coast run before going back to Europe. If he returns to the Northwest, he’ll announce those plans on his website and Facebook. Listen to one of his seven in-studio appearances at KEXP here, and watch Robyn play “The End of Time” live for KEXP at SXSW 2013 below.