Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5 (4.5 for the lyrics)
Robyn Hitchcock is often cited as being Syd Barrett's successor, but I feel that this is a bit of a misnomer. Hitchcock possesses a similar vocal range and often writes similarly twisted lyrics, but his sound contains a lot more control and purpose, and also throws in more than a fair share of folk rock, especially The Byrds' 12-string electric jangle.
On Fegmania!, Hitchcock practically reformed his legendary new wave band The Soft Boys, albeit using them for entirely different means. A good 75% of this record is strong 80's indie jangle rock which is not dissimilar from early R.E.M. (who also worshipped The Byrds). Unfortunately, the album is often the victim of standard 80's production sounds too, but there are enough psychedelic flourishes to keep this listener amused. Hitchcock's vocals also remain front and center, which is a big plus as nobody else writes surreal, insect imagery-laden lyrics quite like him.
Fegmania! is frontloaded with its best songs. Hitchcock successfully and diagonally references hot topics such as transgenderism, necrophilia (or just mourning), and incest on opener "Egyptian Cream," "My Wife And My Dead Wife," and "The Man With The Lightbulb Head" respectively. They come close to sounding like novelty songs, but Hitchcock lyrical skill pull them out of of that particular mire. "Lightbulb Head" also has the bonus feature of featuring interesting, hazy psychedelic production as it was recorded earlier and doesn't share the scrubbed stamp of the rest of the album. Hitchcock does manage the detached, paranoid sound of Barrett on the explosive "Goodnight I Say," which is my personal favorite on the disc.
Side two of the album is significantly less impessive, although never embarrassing. The songs are well crafted, but not as memorable for me. There are are few ill-fitting stylistic shifts such as the not-too-authentic sounding calypso of "Strawberry Mind." Otherwise, "Glass" has some interesting chord changes and there is a good, if by-the-numbers cover of "The Bells Of Rhymney," done of course in The Byrds' style.
The Rhino CD includes five bonus tracks. Four of these are relatively disposable demo and live tracks. The last one, however, is a truly groovy instrumental called "The Pit Of Souls (Parts I-IV)." Hitchcock and his band really force themselves out of their comfort zone here and end up throwing around several interesting ideas. The tracks runs a diverse ten minutes and significantly ups the value of Fegmania!.
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians - Fegmania!