Happy Anniversary: Robyn Hitchcock, MOSS ELIXIR
20 years ago this week, Robyn Hitchcock returned from something resembling self-imposed retirement and unleashed his debut album for Warner Brothers.
After concluding his contract with A&M Records with the release of his 1993 album, RESPECT, Hitchcock laid low for a bit, ostensibly because of the death of his father, and when he resurfaced a few years later, he was signed to Warner Brothers and sans his longtime backing group, The Egyptians.
The decision to go it on his own for his WB debut, MOSS ELIXIR, was one borne out of his personal impressions of the previous pair of albums he’d done with them.
“This is my latest attempt to make a real record-- something to listen to, rather than music that helps you buy clothes,” Hitchcock wrote in a note to his listeners at the time. “The last two albums I made with the Egyptians seemed too airtight, in retrospect. I had originally wanted Respect to be recorded with the musicians sitting around the table and singing into a bowl of fruit; somehow, production, budgets and musicianship all intervened to make a far more dense record than some of the songs warranted. Hindsight is a groovy bedfellow. But it left me all the more determined to add only what was necessary next time I went into the studio.”
On that front, MOSS ELIXIR certainly benefited from the fact that Hitchcock had, as he put it, “no deal, no producer, and no money for a band.” The album’s songs were predominantly acoustic and often sparsely arranged, but they nonetheless came out sounding swell, thanks in no small part to the way Hitchcock wisely utilized guest violinist Deni Bonet, who contributed to the album’s bookends, “Sinister But She Was Happy” and “This Is How It Feels,” among other tracks.
It’s worth noting that Hitchcock fans had a pretty good few weeks in 1996, as their hero also released a vinyl-only album entitled MOSSY LIQUOR a few weeks before MOSS ELIXIR. The album featured a number of demos and alternate versions of songs from MOSS ELIXIR – including a Swedish version of “Alright Yeah” – along with a number of new, previously-unreleased songs. As such, it’s a highly enjoyable novelty for the real Hitchcock aficionados, but newbies would probably do best to take their first sip from MOSS ELIXIR.