Robyn Hitchcock, the ultimate English eccentric, has made his most American album with "Jewels for Sophia." Hitchcock has recorded in the United States with American musicians before, but never have his songs been so imbued with the character of the former colonies. Whether he's blowing harmonica on a 12-bar blues or leading Peter Buck through a garage-rock salute to Seattle, Hitchcock has apparently decided the absurdities of his British fairy tales have nothing on the absurdities available at almost any exit on a U.S. interstate.
Hitchcock's first studio album in three years was cobbled together from four different sessions: in Seattle with R.E.M.'s Buck and three-fourths of the Young Fresh Fellows; in Los Angeles with Grant Lee "Buffalo" Phillips and Fiona Apple producer Jon Brion; in London with Kimberley Rew (the former Soft Boy's first collaboration with Hitchcock in 17 years); and in London with Tim Keegan's band, Homer. Even the three English tracks include a song about the U.S. space program colonizing the moon ("There'll be cows and there'll be jails and sewage to comfort the vegetables").
The album includes a denser remake of "No, I Don't Remember Guildford," which originally appeared in Jonathan Demme's 1998 documentary film, "Storefront Hitchcock." The newer songs are studded with references to Jimi Hendrix, Buzz Aldrin, Gene Hackman, Michael Stipe, Richard Nixon and Audrey Hepburn. But the most American moments on "Jewels for Sophia" occur when Hitchcock drops his cryptic British reserve and sings with New World directness on such enchanting love songs as "I Feel Beautiful" and "You've Got a Sweet Mouth on You, Baby."
Appearing Friday at the 9:30 club with the Flaming Lips, Sebadoh, Cornelius and Iqu. To hear a free Sound Bite from Robyn Hitchcock, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)