Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
Element Of Light was Robyn Hitchcock's 5th solo studio album and his second with The Egyptians. In many ways Element Of Light is a logical progression from Fegmania!, but there is a lot of creative growth here too. Whereas the previous album often went for an energetic folk-rock sound, Hitchcock and his band go for a more smoothed out, dreamy effect this time out (not to say that there's no bite to the music here and there). Further disproving Hitchcock's reputation as a Syd Barrett wannabe, Hitchcock includes a distinct Lennon vibe to this album, a little bit musically but definitely vocally and lyrically.
The album opens with its best track, "If You Were A Priest." It's almost as catchy as R.E.M.'s contemporary breakout hits on Document, but Hitchcock's somewhat blasphemous (yet genius) lyrics doomed the track never to play on anything but college radio. Hitchcock treads strange lyrical ground on the poppy "Ted, Woody, And Junior." "Winchester" effectively introduces the dreamy side of the album and it's another classic Hitchcock track.
The aforementioned Lennon sound is most noticeble on "Somewhere Apart," which is either a homage or a ripoff of the Plastic Ono Band album. Many other bits on the disc recall Lennon lyrics or vocals such as the lyrics of "Never Stop Bleeding." There is still plenty of Barrett influence most apparent on tracks like "Bass" and "Lady Waters And The Hooded One." Element Of Light closes with the fun little confection "Tell Me About Your Drugs," which is practically a compete return to the sound of The Soft Boys. I guess Hitchcock wanted to throw his old fans a bone.
Element Of Light's production better fits Hitchcock's music than on Fegmania!, but it's still not completely inspired. There is a strong dreamy atmosphere adorning several tracks here, but some of them like "Raymond Chandler Evening" and "Never Stop Bleeding" end up sounding practically the same. Still, the 80's-ness from the last album is much more smoothed out and for me is an improvement.
Once again, there is a clutch of bonus tracks on the Rhino reissue. This time they are all demos and live tracks except for the basically pointless spoken word "The Can Opener." The others are fun for comparision's sake, but add little to the album. I do like the demo for "Raymond Chandler Evening," and I'd like the spare "Leopard" demo if it didn't sound horrifically out of tune.
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians - Element Of Light