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CD Review - Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 'Goodnight Oslo'

Robyn Hitchcock keeps his tunes accessible.
Robyn Hitchcock keeps his tunes accessible.
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Friday, April 3, 2009

ROBYN HITCHCOCK & THE VENUS 3 "Goodnight Oslo" Yep Roc

ROBYN HITCHCOCK'S latest creation proves that, despite his long discography, already more than 20 albums deep, it's never too late for a second act. On "Goodnight Oslo," Hitchcock's second recording with the Venus 3, the 56-year-old Englishman sounds as vital and self-assured as ever, with a veteran's swagger and plenty of the unapologetically off-kilter couplets that fill his discography.

Hitchcock has obvious chemistry with the Venus 3, a lineup that includes Peter Buck of R.E.M. on guitar. But "Goodnight Oslo" is much more than some R.E.M. offshoot: It's a philosophical record with Hitchcock firmly in command, expounding on matters of love, wealth, identity and death in fairly lucid, succinct terms.

A highlight is "Hurry for the Sky," a jangly two-step that has a distinct country-western feel, down to drummer Bill Rieflin's double-time kick-drumming: "You can easily confuse money with success," Hitchcock sings. "Success is always relative/Money is acute; money's absolute."

Hitchcock is often cited for his lyrical obtuseness and surrealism, and though he borrows obviously from John Lennon at times, "Goodnight Oslo" remains a highly accessible alt-rock record that, along with 2006's "Ole! Tarantula," makes a good entry point to Hitchcock's universe.

He sums it up best on the sinister album opener, "What You Is," a song that begs to score the opening credits of a Quentin Tarantino film: "It doesn't matter what you was, it's what you is/And what you is, is what you are." And what "Goodnight Oslo" is, is the work of a skilled craftsman getting the most out of his new set of tools.

-- Alex Baldinger

Appearing Thursday with Jennifer O'Connor at the Black Cat (202-667-7960, http://www.blackcatdc.com). Doors open at 8 p.m.


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