Robyn Hitchcock Teams With R.E.M.'s Peter Buck On Upcoming Album

New album also features Grant Lee Phillips, Scott McCaughey of Tuatara.

Psychedelic British troubadour Robyn Hitchcock will team with his longtime friend, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, on the former's next studio album, Jewels for Sophia, which is due in the spring.

"He's very quick to assess what a song needs," Hitchcock said of Buck in a SonicNet chat Monday. "[Buck] doesn't overplay. [He] comes up with a good part very fast, and he can write a very complementary guitar part."

In one of their more memorable collaborations, Buck recently joined Hitchcock at the New York premiere of the Jonathan Demme-directed live documentary about the singer, "Storefront Hitchcock." Buck also indulged in a bit of on-the-street busking in New York City's West Village with the notoriously quirky songwriter.

"We've played with each other for 13 years," Hitchcock said of Buck, calling their guitar styles "interchangeable." Buck worked with Hitchcock on the latter's albums Globe of Frogs (1988) and Perspex Island (1991), which were recorded with Hitchcock's band of the time, the Egyptians.

Jewels, Hitchcock said, is his first rock record since Perspex Island. The songwriter said the new album was fairly uptempo and the vibe is "all men on their hind legs playing guitar." It features cameos from Grant Lee Buffalo leader Grant Lee Phillips, Scott McCaughey of Tuatara/Young Fresh Fellows and Hitchcock's former Soft Boys bandmate Kimberly Rew.

Beginning with his melodic, slightly off-kilter pop efforts with the Soft Boys in the late '70s, Hitchcock has been one of England's most enduring, prolific and unpredictable contemporary singer/songwriters. With a string of psychedelic solo albums in the early '80s and equally impressionistic albums with the Egyptians in the latter half of the decade, Hitchcock solidified his reputation as an important force in music. R.E.M. top the list of the decade's leading pop-groups that have claimed Hitchcock as an inspiration.

Sitting in with Hitchcock and playing impromptu street gigs is in keeping with R.E.M.'s mood these days, Buck said after the spur-of-the-moment New York gig with Hitchcock. "Spontaneity is key for everything we want to do now," he said.

Hitchcock also has been busy with other projects. In addition to the film collaboration with Demme -- which included such songs as "Beautiful Queen" (RealAudio excerpt) -- he recently finished the first draft of his debut novel, "The Ballad of Jacob Lurch," which he began writing more than four years ago. "It has elements of things that will be familiar to people who have heard my songs," Hitchcock said of the work-in-progress, which he hopes to publish after Jewels is released.

While he would not give away any plot points, the 45-year-old Hitchcock did reveal that the lead character, Jacob Lurch, is mentioned in the song "Wax Doll" from the 1989 Egyptians album Queen Elvis. "It's a more sustained piece of work than any of my songs," Hitchcock said, "because a song only has to last three minutes, so they skip all over the place. I will say that by the end of the book the beginning couldn't have happened. It centers around that paradox."