Thirty years ago Robyn Rowan Hitchcock released his first solo album with a little help from the recently disbanded Soft Boys. Kimberley Rew, Matthew Seligman, and Morris Windsor joined him for some of the sessions as well as Vince Ely of the Psychedelic Furs, Knox and Pat Collier of the Vibrators, Rob Appleton, Howie Gilbert, Gary Barnacle, and Thomas Dolby. The resultant sound goes back and forth between a new pop sensibility and the more aggressive rock of his former band. 'Black Snake Dîamond Röle' got its title from a Soft Boys song, though it had different working titles such as 'The Perfumed Corpse' and 'Zinc Pear'.
'The Man Who Invented Himself' opens the album with a pop flourish. It was originally released with saxophone by Gary Barnicle; but they do not appear in this version. Hitchcock says, "I think it's about Dylan actually".
"He came bursting out of nowhere
Like a spear into the sky
And he cast his light on everything
It was like he'd never die"
The thundering 'Brenda's Iron Sledge' features Psychedelic Furs drummer Vince Ely. It is about Margaret Thatcher "and the ruling class generally. The idea is that it's a huge great cast-iron sled going down a slushy hill in the middle of winter with some really nasty trees poking out, and there's no shock abosrbers: there's just a mass of people at the bottom. And it's a, sort of, pyramid, and at the top sit Brenda and her cronies, y'know, munching legs of chicken and dill pickles out of hampers, and sort of cracking the whip. And the ruling class is protected from what is happening by this wedge of people underneath them. And if they really wanna do something with a riot they should do them in Knightsbridge and South Kensington and Hampstead, you know? As long as they can keep things at a distance, then that's how it works."
"The ones on top are comfortable (Yeah)
They're sitting on a human chain, a human chain
They're sitting on a human chain
Their limbs, compressed in icy slush,
Are freezing in a raw meat groove"
'Do Policemen Sing?' is menacing and mirthful. 'I Watch The Cars' harkens back to the sound of the Soft Boys. It was recorded on the day John Lennon was killed.
"Oh do policemen sing?
Yes when they're in the mood
And when their truncheons swing
That's when they're in the mood"
The trippy swirl of 'The Lizard' evokes the Doors.
"You know the lizard's won
But you can't work out how it's done
The lizard is your friend
And will be 'til the very end of time"
The magnificent 'Acid Bird' cements Hitchcock as the "godfather of modern psychedelia".
"Fun in the sun, luck in the bloodstream
Shallow bodies writhing on the grass
Fun in the sun, hair in the slipstream
Tadpoles shooting through a hollowed glass"
'Out Of The Picture' describes a fear of women and a sense that men disappear within the feminine mystique.
"Don't you ever wonder 'bout the nowhere girl
Don't you feel sad or feel strange
There is no escaping from the nowhere girl
She's never really truly out of range"
The atmospheric ballad 'Love' features Thomas Dolby as the ocean.
"The sun is shining on the ground
I see that nothing makes a sound
I move, invisible as air
And choose the time to disappear"
His pen and ink comic 'The Enchanted Sewer' was included in the liner notes.