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Legendary underground cult artist Robyn Hitchcock reveals his creative process as never before. This Sundance Channel Original Production chronicles the origins of a forthcoming album (featuring 8 brand new songs), the formation of his band The Venus 3, and their U.S. tour. Famed for his twisted rock lyrics that are at once blithe, scathing and deep, Hitchcock is one of England s most influential songwriters and performers with a body of work spanning over 20 albums and three decades. Joined in music and conversation by friends and bandmates like, Peter Buck & Bill Rieflin of R.E.M., Scott McCaughey from Young Fresh Fellows, Chris Ballew from The Presidents Of The United States, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, and Nick Lowe, Robyn lets loose his creative genius in a free-flowing musical interview that gives us an unprecedented glimpse into his mind and craft.
Classic songs like I Often Dream of Trains and priceless footage of Robin performing Uncorrected Personality Traits & My Wife & My Dead Wife with former Soft Boy Morris Windsor will delight staunch fans and convert new ones.
The title refers to what many listeners classify as the sum total of his subject matter, but Robyn Hitchcock insists that his songs are about more than Sex, Food, Death... and Insects. While the first three of those items are undeniably important--calling them "corridors to life," the English singer-songwriter notes that we need sex to bring us into the world, food to sustain us while we're there, and death to usher us out--Hitchcock explains that his tunes are really about what he calls "the shock of existence." Recorded primarily in 2006 and produced by the Sundance Channel, this hourlong program (plus another half hour of bonus material) finds Hitchcock and some stellar cohorts rehearsing and performing (on stage and in the studio) a variety of his songs, many of them new at the time. Principal among his collaborators is R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, whose band the Venus 3 (with drummer Bill Rieflin and bassist Scott McCaughey) collaborated with Hitchcock on the '06 album Ole Tarantula and later joined him on tour; also featured are Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones (playing mandolin), Nick Lowe, and "American primitive" masters Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, among others. Calling himself "a frightened, angry person" (and adding, "thats probably why my stuff isnt totally insubstantial"), Hitchcock comes across as smart, reflective, and self-effacing. Amusing, too; anyone with song titles like "Note to Self: Kill More Flies" and "My Wife & My Dead Wife" obviously has a twisted and appealing sense of humor. What's more, as he puts it, "My music doesn't appeal to meatheads." Nonetheless, by any objective measure, Hitchcock isn't much of a singer, and while the lyrics are never less than intriguing, his melodies and chord structures lack originality. But that's just one opinion; perhaps the best thing about Sex, Food, Death... and Insects is that it with over 20 Robyn Hitchcock tunes here for the listening, you'll have ample opportunity to form your own. --Sam Graham
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I have been a Hitchcock fan since before any of the REM gang came on board. It is
his songwriting that is the star of his music not(!) REM even though I love Buck's
guitar work. Hitchcock is one of the most under-appreciated songwriters (along with
Richard Thompson and David Olney) who has given us 3 1/2 decades of great
music that is still in ascent--while most artists that gained traction in the early 80s
are either selling used cars or still singing the same songs. He has outlasted REM
and is a more interesting songwriter than Stipe & co. ever were (even though I
am an REM fan). This DVD is a chronicle of HITCHCOCK (and good company) recording,
playing, touring and yes "hamming it up" for the camera as only Robyn can do. He
trips out on words and puts them in mostly Surreal--Psychedelic/Folk/Rock musical idioms, He plays
these songs perfectly well solo sometimes as he is also a very adept guitarist. He is generous
in crediting his musicians, but with or without "3/5ths" of REM it is HIS work that is the main attraction.
He is also an interesting painter which is probably why his songs are so "image oriented"
These other reviews are an insult to a great artist.
Hithchock, for his part, has opened for, and played with, REM for a long time as well.
In this great documentary, Hitchock muses that Buck has sold millions of albums with REM, yet seems just as happy, if not more so, playing to a crowd of 75 people as he does to one of 100,000.
Peter Buck himself confirms that he much more prefers being in a "small" band than putting up with all the BS that comes with the territory of being a member of one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.
In the film, Hithcock invites the viewer and listener into his house in London, and gives fans an intimate and rare glimpse into his creative process.
Hitchock is truly one of the greatest living songwriters. But don't take my word for it. Peter Buck of REM, the legendary Nick Lowe, and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame are in the band and documentary to tell you themselves.
The only reason I didn't give the film 5 stars is that at least to me, Hithcock comes across a little bit self absorbed or "hamming it up" at times.
Other than this very small complaint, this is a highly recommended film for Hitchcock and John Lennon fans.
This originally aired on Showtime, but this is a nice crisp digital transfer.
The live show was filmed at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ. I was there, in 2006.