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Robert Wyatt - Old Rottenhat  CD (album) cover

OLD ROTTENHAT

Robert Wyatt

Canterbury Scene


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Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Robert Wyatt's first album of new material in a decade was something of a mixed blessing. Like the subsequent Dondestan this is a completely solo work, aside from a brief vocal from his wife Alfreda Benge. As with most of his 80s work, the songs are explicitly political and reflect his hard line left wing views, and the lyrics are both erudite and witty.

The problem with this album is that it sounds very monotonous - having written a collection of idiosyncratic songs about a variety of topics rarely covered in popular music, Wyatt went on to sing them over a mid paced organ drone that scarcely varies from one track to the next. Only a couple of the tracks really stand out, East Timor (a 3 line attack on a monstrously under reported atrocity) and The British Road. Occasional details shine through, like the music box rendition of The Internationale or Alfreda's broad cockney 'I've got an 'at but it's not like that - old rotten'at!', but these are just brief interjections between the main tracks. There is some good material on here, but too much of it passes by in a blur.

The Old Rottenhat tracks were later re released along with a collection of non album tracks as Mid 80s, reviewed elsewhere on this site, which is probably the better purchase if you can track it down.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#29848)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
3 stars I'd like to honour Wyatt - the most outstanding individual of Canterbury Scene, I think - by 4 stars, but maybe this album is indeed a bit too monotonous. Let's say 3,5*. There are no many of his albums I've heard but it's obvious he deserves a special status as a man who goes his own paths and don't give a damn about pop business. (That's not entirely a good thing.) I find some similarities between Wyatt and Brian Eno, they both need only a couple of chords to build up a song - and just themselves to play it. Peaceful organ/keyboards dominate this album. As lyricists Wyatt is often very political and on this album themes like class boundaries, foreign politics, mass media or selfishness as modern ideology are delivered very openly. Musically I like most the opening track 'Alliance' and higher- tempoed 'Age of Self'. Comparisons to Dutch art pop group NITS can also be made. Even to David Sylvian in maturity. So, not only for Canterbury/ Soft Machine diggers - but not for everyone either.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#29849)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars These 80's Wyatt albums are under-rated I think, his voice never sounded sweeter than on this album which mixes sweet melodies with acidic biting politics. Instrumentation is again very minimal but that just allows you luxuriate in his astonishing vocal ability. And the lyrics seem very prescient in the light of recent developments. I would give this 4.5, but I can't so I gave it four stars.

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Send comments to mixmastermorris (BETA) | Report this review (#114519)
Posted Thursday, March 08, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It took only one listen to know i had found something very special. And i think it goes to show what a talent Robert Wyatt is, that with only his vocals and keyboards(for the most part), he left me overjoyed with what I was listening to. I am so impressed with this record ! It kind of reminded me of David Sylvian, mainly in the way that the vocals are the focus, and i'm a big fan of Wyatt's singing. I actually enjoyed this more than "Rock Bottom" although I much prefer the lyrics to that one over what's on "Old Rottenhat".

"Alliance" is the song that reminds me of David Sylvian the most. It's slow paced with vocals and keys,with a keyboard solo to end it. Excellent track. "The U.S. Of America" opens with drums as vocals come in. His vocals are double tracked for the most part. There are keys throughout and even some whistling. Another great song. "East Timor" is so catchy with vocal lines and keyboard lines repeated throughout. "Speechless" is surprise,surprise an instrumental. Keys and light drums on this one. Probably my least favourite up to this point. I want Robert's vocals thankyou. "The Age Of Self" is a bright and catchy tune. I can't help but move when this one's playing.

"Vandalusia" is a slow paced, drifting track that is very mellow. "The British Road" features loud percussion after a minute with double tracked vocals. Love this tune too. "Mass Medium" is my least favourite song on the album. It opens with a music box playing, then keys and vocals take over in this slow paced tune. "Gharbzadegi" opens with keys as percussion comes in and continues throughout. I really like the vocals on this one, especially 2 and 4 minutes in. Another fantastic song. "P.L.A." opens with a music box as vocals and a wash of keys take over. This is such a charming little tune.

For me this is a solid 4 stars and one of my favourite Wyatt albums ever.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#165931)
Posted Sunday, April 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars One thing that I shall not reproach Old Robert is that the 80's didn't seem to have a grasp on him. After sitting out the second half of the 70's, Robert came back with a vengeance and flooded the early to mid- 80's with some three albums and a bunch of singles (at least I think, because I was never able to know exactly what came out when in those years). So Robert's political views didn't change with the coming of Horrible Maggie, his way of writing songs didn't change much (except that it was less experimental as in the Ruth side of RISTR), and he didn't get influenced by the latest industry trends, such as crappy digital synths and not too much of those screwed-up 80's drumming (bar the short East Timor) and above all he remained himself.

On the other hand, this album verges on boredom, with an absolutely transparent 80's artwork, and very Wyatt-esque songs that resemble each other a little too close for comfort, which is quite sleep-inducing, even with some entertaining anti-imperialist lyrics (US of Amnesia, East Timor, Vandalusia, etc.) OR is probably his most political album to date, well ahead of Matching Mole's LRR. To top it all off, there are no songs that seem to stand out from the pack, except for the longer (8 minutes) Gharzadeghi, which does take a bit of time to expand and get almost exciting with Rob playing a good piano.

But, much to my dismay, ol'Rob has taken up the accordion (I hate those "things"), even if he doesn't use it as a lead instrument proper, but mostly like an organ layering (harmonium-like) the tracks in the background. The instrumental Speechless is a good example of him playing Of course using the usual popular feast instrument such as the accordion the way he does only manages to increase the usual gloom and doom of his albums, without the usual surprises that accompanied his previous albums: quirky changes and poignant instrument sounds and solos.

An under-average album for Robert when comparing to his whole career (incl MM and SM), but if you consider that it's the mid-80's, he's not faring that bad either, and this is far from his worst album as well. But better look elsewhere

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#166038)
Posted Tuesday, April 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Old Rottenhat is the fourth full-length studio album by British progressive rock artist Robert Wyatt ( excluding the soundtrack album The Animals Film (1982) and the compilation album Nothing Can Stop Us (1982) which I donīt count as full studio albums by Robert Wyatt). The album was released in 1985 through Rough Trade. Itīs been 10 years since his last proper studio album Ruth is Stranger Than Richard (1975) and the intermediate years have been used with various guest appearances on other artistīs albums and live shows ( Henry Cow, HatField and the North...etc), the release of a soundtrack album The Animals Film (1982), the release of a cover song album Nothing Can Stop Us (1982) and the release of a couple of singles and EPs. Robert Wyatt had become very politically active and became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1982.

His left wing opinions shine through a lot in the lyrics on this album and some might be offended by his outspoken opinions ( I can see a couple of Americans not finding much pleasure in the lyrics for United States of Amnesia which is about the imperialistic nature of the American people and the way they tend to forget who originally inhabited the land). The music is a welcome return to form for Robert Wyatt. The intrumental side of the album is best described as minimalistic keyboard/ synth driven pop/ rock songs with various percussion types and styles incorporated. The most enjoyable thing about Old Rottenhat is the fact that the songs are build around the beautiful, fragile and distinct vocals by Robert Wyatt though. The emotional impact on me when I listen to his vocals are as strong as ever on this album. This is not Rock Bottom (1974) number 2 though, even though thatīs the album Old Rottenhat reminds me the most about. While Rock Bottom featured lots of guest appearences, Old Rottenhat only features Robert Wyatt himself and I think thatīs audible. If thereīs room for a slight complaint itīs that the music seems a bit too monotone and not varied enough. But it is a minor complaint and the feeling of monotony only sneaks in very seldomly.

The big difference from his early eighties output and Old Rottenhat is the sound quality. The production is again professional like it was on his seventies albums.

Itīs a bit funny to note that Old Rottenhat was released in 1985 because it doesnīt sound one bit like a product of the eighties. Organic sounding and timeless. Old Rottenhat is another excellent and emotionally strong album by Robert Wyatt and it deserves a 3.5 to 4 stars rating.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#226090)
Posted Sunday, July 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Robert Wyatt's sole album-length work of the 1980s (aside from the Animals Film soundtrack and the EP and singles collection Nothing Can Stop Us) is a strange beast. Performed by Wyatt himself, some artificial-sounding (but interestingly so) 80s keyboards, and Alfreda Benge (who pops in for a brief vocal cameo), the album finds Wyatt in outraged lefty mode, though to be fair this was the middle of the Thatcher era and anyone whose politics leaned towards the left was feeling besieged at that point.

With incisive lyrics - "You say you're self sufficient (but you don't dig your own coal)" is a razor- sharp takedown of the rhetoric of Tories and yuppies of the era who liked to pretend that the world could get by without the working class entirely - and intense, dramatic compositions given an eerie, otherworldly air by his synthesisers, Wyatt's voice is the odd feature out here - he sounds like a genuine human being who's wandered into a cold world of emotionless machines and isn't impressed by what he's found there. Perhaps an album to visit late in one's exploration of Wyatt's back catalogue, but I think it represents a very significant achievement in his discography - certainly, there's almost nothing out there that sounds like it. Genuine outsider art for those who who themselves have been shoved outside by compassionless Tory policies of the 1980s - or today, for that matter.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#1068568)
Posted Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | Review Permalink

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