I know what you’re thinking: we’ve already reviewed Eurotopia. Well, yes and no. First we had the thirteen-track CD edition with The Irregulars and now we have the nine-track vinyl version featuring Robb on mostly acoustic guitars supported by vocalist Fae Simon.
Both records open with ‘The Carnival Song’, a spiky lyric with a delightfully silly chorus from a German pop song. Good as the big band version is I actually prefer this take – the lyrics are somehow clearer although Robb doesn’t over-project (he never does). Somehow the song makes better sense this way. Moving up to second is ‘Welcome To The Museum’, performed slightly more in sorrow than in anger – until the end – and decorated with haunting electric guitar. ‘My Last Night In Montmartre’ comes third, one of Robb’s lovely nostalgic songs again with gorgeous jazz-tinged guitar.
Next comes the first of the new songs. Oh, yes: I didn’t explain that the LP isn’t just a selection from the CD. ‘The Centre Of Everything’ begins with Galileo and works its way through church doctrine and prejudices leading via the Holocaust to the modern world. ‘The Kreuzberg Sisters’ is another song from the band set that finds us in Berlin and is one song I’d like to Robb to explain to me some day. ‘Thursday Evening St Denis’ returns to one of Robb’s youthful haunts but this time nostalgia is conspicuous by its absence to be replaced with bitterness and repressed anger. ‘The Ballad Of The North Wind’ takes us back to Germany – what might be called the seedier part of a city. But the references to bombers and a fire-storm suggest Dresden and the time is mutable.
‘Tuesday Night Community Bingo’ is another new song but one I’m sure I’ve heard before. Robb has a huge catalogue, of course, and I can’t track it down so I could be wrong. It sounds jolly enough but again there is bitterness beneath the jollity. Finally, there is the all-too-short ‘Figs & Roses’ full of romance for a Greek island and which Robb released on one of his “unofficial” albums.
You may have bought Eurotopia on CD but here are five songs that you probably haven’t heard. Robb keeps it simple and Fae Simon’s contributions are perfectly restrained; I’d like to hear a little more of her sometimes but I’m not being critical. You need this record, too.
Artist’s website: www.robbjohnson.co.uk
This may be confusing but ‘Coincidents On The Circle Line’ appears on the Eurotopia CD but not the vinyl. It’s the best we can do at the moment:
Read Dai Jeffries’ review of Eurotopia on CD here.