The best album ever about public transport

Robyn_trains
There are three things serious pop fans know about Robyn Hitchcock. Firstly that his major public outings these days involve wearing dodgy shirts and odd-coloured trousers at Dylan tribute gigs. Secondly that he’s a songwriter who is revered in the States but is seen as little more than an eccentric in his homeland. And lastly that his late 70s early 80s band The Soft Boys so influenced REM that the Georgians had to befriend him possibly to save on legal costs. All this is rather tragic as it means so few people have ever heard his records especially his 1984 ‘comeback album’  I Often Dream Of Trains.

Recorded a year after his ‘promising’ solo career hit the skids, I Often Dream Of Trains is the sound of man jettisoning his recent past and embracing his roots. If ever there were an album version of George Orwell’s book Coming up for Air this is it.

Sparsely recorded with Hitchcock in the main playing most of the instruments, Trains nevertheless boasts some of the best songs Hitchcock ever recorded, namely the Lennon-esque Cathedral and the brilliant acapella Uncorrected Personality Traits

At the very heart of the album are two astonishing songs about transport, a subject close to Hitchcock’s heart. Trams Of Old London, is wonderful acoustic evocation of the vehicles that ferried Hitchcock across the capital in his youth – maybe he’ll pen a similar song about the demise of the Routemaster buses soon.

But it is the title track which could well be the ultimate Hitchcock song. A dreamy wistful melody underpinned by an echoey guitar I Often Dream Of Trains is also the only lyric ever to mention Paradise, Basingstoke and Reading in the same line. Only a genius could pull that one off.

Robyn Hitchcock – I Often Dream of Trains 1984 (Midnight)

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