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Robert Wyatt

Canterbury Scene

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Robert Wyatt Old Rottenhat album cover
3.54 | 98 ratings | 9 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1985

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Alliance (4:23)
2. The U.S. of Amnesia (5:52)
3. East Timor (2:54)
4. Speechless (3:38)
5. The Age of Self (2:50)
6. Vandalusia (2:38)
7. The British Road (6:26)
8. Mass Medium (4:43)
9. Gharbzadegi (7:59)
10. P.L.A. (2:27)

Total Time 43:50

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Wyatt / vocals & instruments

Releases information

"For Micheal Bettany; Recorded '84 at West Studios, Acton by John McGowan and '85 at Acre Lane Studios, Brixton by Bill Gill Gilonis; All songs written by Robert Wyatt."

Artwork: Alfreda Benge with Caryn Gough/Multi-Modis (design)

LP Rough Trade ‎- ROUGH 69 (1985, Europe)

CD Rough Trade ‎- ROUGH CD69 (1986, UK)

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Buy ROBERT WYATT Old Rottenhat Music

ROBERT WYATT Old Rottenhat ratings distribution

(98 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

ROBERT WYATT Old Rottenhat reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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.

Review by Matti
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.
Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Review by Sean Trane
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

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Old Rottenhat" is the 4th full-length studio album by UK progressive rock artist Robert Wyatt (excluding the soundtrack album "The Animals Film (1982)" and the compilation album "Nothing Can Stop Us (1982)" . The album was released through Rough Trade in 1985. It had been 10 years since his last proper studio album "Ruth is Stranger Than Richard (1975)" and the intermediate years had been spend with various guest appearances on other artistīs albums, with playing live shows (with Henry Cow, HatField and the North...etc), with the release of a soundtrack album "The Animals Film (1982)", with the release of a cover song album "Nothing Can Stop Us (1982)", and with the release of a couple of singles and EPs. Robert Wyatt had also 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 "Old Rottenhat" and some might be offended by his outspoken opinions. I for example suspect some Americans will not find much pleasure in the lyrics for "United States of Amnesia" which is about the imperialistic nature of the American people (as seen by Wyatt) and the way they tend to forget who originally inhabited their land.

Musically "Old Rottenhat" 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 playing styles incorporated. As always itīs the way the tracks are build around the beautiful, fragile, and distinct sounding vocals by Robert Wyatt which is the real asset though. This is not "Rock Bottom (1974)" number 2, although thatīs the Robert Wyatt album "Old Rottenhat" mostly reminds me of. While "Rock Bottom (1974)" featured lots of guest appearences/session musicians, "Old Rottenhat" only features Robert Wyatt himself and thatīs audible. If thereīs room for a slight complaint itīs that the music can seem a bit too monotone and not varied enough. But it is a minor complaint and the feeling of monotony only sneaks in now and again.

Compared to his early 80s output, the big difference is that "Old Rottenhat" features a professional sounding production like the case was on his 70s albums, which to my ears is a great upgrade and a return to a more easily accessible format (in terms of sound quality). Itīs a bit funny to note that "Old Rottenhat" was released in 1985 because it doesnīt sound one bit like a product of the 80s. It features an organic sounding production and thereīs something timeless about it, which is something few 80s albums can brag about. Upon conclusion "Old Rottenhat" is another high quality and emotionally strong album by Robert Wyatt and it deserves a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating.

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by Mirakaze
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Robert Wyatt's equivalent of The Final Cut: an album that wasn't born from any distinct musical idea but rather from the desire to get an urgent political message out.

I have two problems with Old Rottenhat, and the first is that I just don't think the lyrics on it are very good. This has nothing to do with the political beliefs expressed in them, most of which I actually find agreeable, but rather with the fact that they read like dry manifestos rather than song lyrics. There's not much poetic flair to them and sometimes a mere glance at the song title suffices to get the gist of it. I mean, I get it: when you want your message to reach as many people as possible, you don't want to muddy the meaning of your words with metaphors, symbolisms and other things that'll only confuse it, but nothing on the album feels particularly rousing either, especially when combined with the music, which consistently sounds like a moody dirge, but in a child-like and overall very shy manner; not something that conveys urgency.

Worse, the songs are forgettable (with the possible exception of Gharbzadegi, which at least has a riff) and the album as a whole is dreadfully monotonous: Wyatt uses the same organ tone on every song (again except for Gharbzadegi, which is piano-based), along with either a drum machine or some light percussion, usually in a slow waltz-like tempo. It all just gets very predictable after a while.

I suppose that this might be of value if you're as convinced a leftist as Mr. Wyatt, but even then I can't imagine someone like that gaining any real insight through this; at best it might bolster beliefs they already have. I don't want to give it too low a rating because I personally have found some slight use in it as pleasant background music: Wyatt's voice soothes my head and I can't deny that there's a cuteness in the particular organ tone he overuses here, but as anything more than that, I can't but see this album as a failure. I mean really, isn't "pleasant background music" the worst possible label you could attach to a revolutionary political statement?

Latest members reviews

3 stars One major flaw and one major positive on this album averages it out to 3/5 The flaw is the at every songs instrumentation is the same. Organ drone + hi hats. This makes the songs sound the same and the album quite dull. Additionally, the songs do not contain instrumental sections, averaging out ... (read more)

Report this review (#2570568) | Posted by Beautiful Scarlet | Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#114519) | Posted by mixmastermorris | Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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