This track pulls me through a time warp. I put it on, and suddenly it’s 1970, and I’m jumping on beat in a crowded audience of young people all riding the same wave of power pop into the crash of glam rock that’s yet to come. We shout every word like we’ve been breathing these lyrics from birth. They don’t quite make sense to our brains yet, but they speak to us all the same. It’s like we’re hearing “See Emily Play” for the first time all over again—I still couldn’t explain a Pink Floyd song to you, but God knows you should listen to it anyway. “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” bleeds the crimson of a half-century ago. It’s near impossible to believe that this track was released this past February.
Robyn Hitchcock is 64 years old, but his age hasn’t turned him into a fragile-sounding warbler who’s on his way out. He sounds exactly the same as he did in the late ‘70s on his tracks with The Soft Boys. Hitchcock is all power and confidence in every note he hits. His unbending, no-compromise style means he’s kept a lot of production techniques from the good ‘ol days that make music from five decades ago so near and dear to my heart: heavily distorted rhythm guitar driving each verse, flowers of tambourine and clean strumming through the chorus, and several layers of Hitchcock’s vocal singing the exact same melody with itself.
If this track is representative of the rest of his upcoming album, I can’t help but get excited. It’s nice to know there are artists out there that haven’t changed their sound to fit the mold of the day. Take a trip back in time, and have a listen to “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” below.