One Track Mind: Robyn Hitchcock, “The Ghost In You” from The Man Upstairs (2014)

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A strikingly intimate reworking of a Psychedelic Furs’ synth-driven, anthemic 1984 hit offers new perspective on what seemed at first like a been-there, done-that concept from Robyn Hitchcock. After all, who isn’t doing a covers album these days?

Then there’s “Ghost in You,” which might be one of the most Psychedelic Furs-iest of all Psychedelic Furs songs — a track that is utterly theirs. But then Hitchcock’s elegiac voice pulls apart the lyrics, and reassembles them into something even more quietly confidential. Suddenly, you hear it all anew.

Credit also goes to Joe Boyd, the folk-inclined producer who’s memorably worked with Fairport Convention and Nick Drake in years past. He keeps things stark and simple, leaving the focus squarely on Hitchcock. If this advance track is any indication, The Man Upstairs (due on August 26, 2014 from Yep Roc) is set to provide a series of quiet, but lasting, revelations — about the material, and about Hitchcock’s enduring ability to engross and delight.

Boyd compared the album to one from another era in pre-release materials — specifically the layered work of Judy Collins, who would similarly mix and match deeply personal moments with found-object reinterpretations. A peek at the tracklisting confirms the notion.

Hitchcock, who rose to early fame in the 1980s with the Soft Boys, is taking on a mix of songs that includes Roxy Music (“To Turn You On”), Grant-Lee Phillips (“Don’t Look Down”) and the Doors (“The Crystal Ship”). Heartfelt originals, including “Comme Toujours” and “Trouble in the Your Blood,” complete The Man Upstairs.

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