Robyn Hitchcock, English art school alum and son of a novelist, has never been much of a literalist. For the most part, his songs are deeply imagistic affairs, little humorous snapshots of the sometimes absurd that snake their way through verses and choruses without any thought of narrative resolution.
The song “Autumn Sunglasses,” off last year’s eponymously titled album, is a perfect example. The image of “the thing,” in this case a pair of autumn sunglasses, drives the song and correlates to the melancholy vibe we often feel as the splendor of summer gives way to fall. “Now you’re gone/ your reflection remains/ There is only just a pair of autumn sunglasses,” Hitchcock sings. You get the idea.
The tune is pretty psychedelic. Sonically, it bears the fingerprints of the Beatles’ Revolver, including backward tape loops and that tell-tale drone sound, with lyrics alluding to supernatural literary classics like Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass and Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
For the video treatment of the song, Hitchcock enlisted the help of Australian filmmaker Jeremy Dylan, who managed to maintain the tune’s lysergic feel.
In the video, Gillian Welch comes over to Hitchcock’s house to rehearse for an upcoming show at East Nashville’s 5 Spot, only to find that he’s morphed into a one-eyed cat in a polka-dot bowtie. (Bulgakov, anyone?) You can imagine where it goes from there.
“This song was written and set in Sydney, but the mood was just right this September in East Nashville,” Hitchock said. “Gillian Welch, Harlowe Quinn from the 5 Spot (glimpsed onstage there with his band Prayer Flags), and Tubby my Scottish Fold cat are all local characters; they helped Jeremy Dylan and I crystallize the feel of summer turning to autumn here in Tennessee.”
You can watch this strange, little trip of a video below.