Eddie Ashworth (Ohio University, USA)
Robyn Hitchcock is one of popular music’s most enduring artists. With a career heading into its fourth decade, his fertile imagination and fluid musical incarnations have produced an impressive body of work, comprising dozens of albums and EPs and over 500 released songs. His influence is also notable, with artists like REM, Neko Case, Wilco, The Decembrists, Guided By VoicesmGillian Welch & David Rawlings, and others citing Hitchcock as having materially affected their own creative work.
It is surprising, then, that as of this writing there have been no sustained scholarly efforts to examine Hitchcock’s rich lyrical output. Most discussion of his work is from the popular press, and here we find a common trope regarding Hitchcock lyrics–that he is obsessed with animals (notably, insects, spiders, fish, reptiles, and amphibians). This perception is so prevalent that the one major documentary on Hitchcock is entitled Sex, Food, Death…and Insects (2008). Moreover, this predilection for faunal metaphors is often depicted as merely surrealistic for its own sake, with no underlying aesthetic perspective or approach.
It is the purpose of this paper to remedy this perception of Hitchcock’s writing, as well as begin a serious examination of his canon. Through close textual analysis of the animal imagery within his lyrics and recently conducted primary interviews, the author seeks to illuminate the rich meanings of Hitchcock’s lyricism that lie just underneath his vivid depictions of animals, and the cosmological and emotional foundations that inform them.