Album Review

Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 - Ole! Tarantula

Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 - Ole! Tarantula

Robyn Hitchcock just wasn't cut out for this dimension, which might be distressing if he himself didn't seem so good-natured about his lot. In the late, great Syd Barrett's absence, Hitchcock has this particular quadrant of the astral plane all to himself. He makes good use of it on Ole! Tarantula, his return to rockin' after 2004's Gillian Welch/David Rawlings collaboration Spooked. This go-round, Hitchcock's collaborators are Peter Buck plus R.E.M. sidemen Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin (who also make up three-quarters of the Minus 5), and they light a fire from the opening track, "Adventure Rocket Ship". With Buck serving as Hitchcock's primary guitar foil, Ole! Tarantula is as catchy and weird and oh-so-English as you've come to expect from Hitchcock. Justin Timberlake wants to bring "SexyBack", but Hitchcock is content to visit the "Museum Of Sex" -- and it's a mighty nifty song, transposing the "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" riff to a pulsing saxophone. No wonder Hitchcock brays toward the end, "Awwww, let's hear that riff again!" Various arthropods get their time in the sun, from the tarantula of the title track to "Red Locust Frenzy". But Ole! Tarantula dwells a bit more than usual in the world of mammals, even invoking Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry Callahan character in "(A Man's Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs". There are Hitchcock's usual intimations of mortality on the Arthur Kane tribute "N.Y. Doll" and another song written in honor of a late friend, the cascading "Underground Sun". And there are songs where you have no idea what the heck he's getting at, such as his declaration (at the end of "The Authority Box"), "Fuck me, baby, I'm a trolley bus." His is still a universe worth visiting.