Album: Underwater Moonlight
. . .
Despite all of the tasty psychedelic goodness that preceded it, Underwater Moonlight ended with its very greatest song, making it like who’s next in that the four best songs on the record opened and closed it, with the final song being an epic for the ages.
“Underwater Moonlight” opens with drummer Morris Windsor’s kickdrum on every beat while he twiddles around on his hi-hat with bassist Matthew Seligman adding cool random notes while Robyn Hitchcock and Kimberly Rew play off-beats with their guitars. And then Hitchcock tells a tale as old as time.
He was white and she was white as only statues are
Fifty years they stood there looking stupid by a jar
One night in mid-August when the moonlight got too strong
They climbed off their pedestal and then they sang this song
Hang on, I’ve been informed by the Home Office that a story of statues becoming sentient under the influence of what had to be a very full moon is not a tale as old as time, but rather something from the feverish imagination of Robyn Hitchcock. Fine. Whatever. It’s still as catchy as hell.
Anyways, after Hitchcock sings “and then they sang this song,” the guitars echoes the song they sing, and you’re right underwater with them. Then as Windsor slyly adds a snare every fourth beat, Hitchcock continues.
Past the gun emplacement and the bones as white as bleach
Through the rats and ivy till they came out on a beach
Out into the ocean till they disappeared from view
Honey, when it gets you there’s just nothing you can do
All of which sets up the utterly glorious chorus, Windsor now doing a full backbeat and the guitars now slashing against each other.
Underwater mooooooooooooon-liiiiiight, sets the body free
Underwater mooooooooooooon-liiiiight, baby you and me
It’s a genius chorus, because the first half is all tension, and the second half, where the guitars switch from power chords to almost funky chickenscratch, the drums start racing and someone — Windsor? — sings a fantastic high harmony on “mooonlight” is pure and utter magic. The kind of magic where you believe every single word Hitchcock is singing is totally real.
He was pink and she was pink and onward they did row
Didn’t see the giant squid, though it was fairly slow
When they hit the bottom they were well and truly dead
The statues took their place and then they rowed back home instead
Underwater moonlight, take your baby down
Underwater moonlight, watch you baby drown with love
I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s not a classic Robyn Hitchcock album closer unless someone — or something — dies at some point. After he second chorus, Kimberly Rew takes a longish solo, which is followed by the whole song almost falling apart — everybody is going in their own directions for a while, while Hitchcock belltown rambles on his guitar while muttering under his breath. But just as it feels like it’s falling apart for good, from the ghostly depths, you start hearing it. And it gets louder and louder.
And at that point, they all explode into one last chorus, everything louder than it was before. And it is fucking fantastic, ending on one last “underwater mooon-liiiiiiight”
A fantastic end to a fantastic album, one that was out of step at the moment, but has revealed itself to be an all-time classic beyond space and time.
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