Wednesday, May 9


"Surgery" has a strange history. Robyn made a video, appending it to the Gotta Let This Hen Out home video released in 1985. It next surfaced on a flexi-disc (remember those? The ultimate in vinyl ephemera, the opposite of those 180 gram collector's editions - rip it out and watch the square rotate!) in Bob magazine in 1987, finally reaching a sort of permanence on the 1995 compilation You & Oblivion.

The video is where I first came across it, and the video itself is as weird as the song's history. It is Clutch Cargo without the drawings, uncomfortably focused on Robyn's mouth. He twitches, fighting the head-bobbing and sideways motions that color his live performances. The effect is hypnotic, in the same way the song is; extremely low key and subdued, but not passive. The doubling and tripling of his voice with each successive chorus is nearly unique in his catalog, and he almost cracks in the high register as the song ends. And it just ends. Strum and done.

Like many of Robyn's songs I have no idea what it's about. What is "it" that he refers to in each verse - you'll never have it out/wear it out/wash it out? What do the colors have to do with the aforementioned "it" -red/blue/pink/green, and their associations -writ in blood/never as dark/do more damage/lovely and obscene? I once tried to make it fit with MacBeth. Now I just sing along and tap my hand to the beat on the side of my car. It's a catchy little demented pop song, if nothing else. After all, Robyn said in an interview, "Maybe the documentary [Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food Death ... And Insects, shown recently on the Sundance channel] will help show that it's not simply about my lyrics. I'm glad people notice I have them, but if lyrics were that important, I'd just write poems."

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