Before we start, I must admit that I am in the Cult of Hitchcock, that small but loyal group of (mostly) alternative music fans who have fallen in love with this obscure British singer/songwriter/guitarist’s peculiar vision. Hitchcock’s music sounds like a brilliant mix of Beatles, Pink Floyd and Monty Python. His main gift seems to be setting bizarre, comic, bitter lyrics in beautiful, melodic pop settings. Hitchcock is also prolific: three albums with the Soft Boys in the late ’70s, five solo albums in the ’80s and six others with his band The Egyptians since ’85.
On this latest album (his third for A&M), producer Paul Fox (XTC’s Oranges and Lemons) puts Hitchcock’s 15-year career into perspective. The production is full and lush, and Fox has seemingly cut down on Hitchcock’s occasional musical and lyrical obsessions (like fish, for example). On Perspex Island, Hitchcock has toned the humor down somewhat, his lyrics focusing more on personal and human themes. The first half of the album contains the usual uptempo, quirky pop songs, but it ends unusually with five slower, more reflective tracks. These showcase some of the best work he’s done, such as the Lennon-esque “Ride” and “She Doesn’t Exist,” a haunting ballad with contributions from R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Peter Buck (who plays throughout).
Hitchcock’s own tasteful guitar playing (he was jangling while Peter Buck was still figuring out the A chord) has never sounded better. This album rode at the top of the college radio charts in October and November, but it probably won’t break him big, although it should. But that’s OK. There’s room in our cult. Join us. We’ll just keep him our little secret. For now.