There hasn’t been a lot of activity in ROBYN HITCHCOCK’s discography in the last year or two, so his new 7″ single with EMMA SWIFT is notable. “Love Is a Drag” is a moody dirge of a tune, the duo’s second outing on vinyl, primarily acoustic but with a sizable helping of atmospheric sounds to bring the point on home. The single was recorded earlier this year by Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and just released on Hitchcock & Swift’s Tiny Ghost label. I’m not normally a fan of low tempo balladry, but then Hitchcock wouldn’t share his authorship with anything as normal as what is commonly considered a ballad.
This slowpoke starts with a lone nylon stringed guitar, joined by Emma and an electric guitar somewhere off in the distance. Soon Robyn comes in along with a toy-sounding xylophone and by the time it gets to the chorus this song would make those with weak constitutions for depressing lyrics hastily pick up the needle and perhaps look for one attached to a syringe to bring them a little comfort. The attraction to this song for me is the atypical harmony these two singers bring to the chorus – partly because the girl is singing the lower part while the boy is handling the higher harmony. It kind of reminds me of Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” (from 1986’s Blood & Chocolate), though it is mercifully shorter and not nearly as psychotic. The B-side, “Life Is Change,” is almost a “part two” to the A-side, as if the chorus (“you don’t want to see that life is change” or “…life has changed”) is the reason why the antagonist of the first song has found himself the subject of this single in the first place. This tune starts off at a similarly lethargic energy level as its dark brethren but starts to pick up toward the end, and features a nice descending guitar line that sounds vaguely like something from a Beatles tune whose title is escaping me at the moment. (I’m sure I’ll come up with it eventually but I’m not gonna wait for it to happen before I put up this review. Meanwhile it’s gonna drive me crazy, so if you solve this mystery, please post a comment here. It’s not close enough to Christmas – nor healthy – for me to be going this insane over a silly little single.)
You can order the record directly from Robyn Hitchcock’s website, and it comes with a download card so you can put the songs in your iTunes and carry them close to your soul. If you’re that brave.
3/5 (Tiny Ghost, 2016)