Old Rottenhat album cover
Old Rottenhat

Robert Wyatt

Rough Trade

While many say that Robert Wyatt’s 1974 album, Rock Bottom, is his masterpiece – and it is, by any measure, an extraordinary record – it strikes me, now, that Old Rottenhat is Wyatt’s finest hour, in that it’s the strongest distillation of both his musical and political tendencies. Wyatt recorded the album genuinely solo (as in alone, no other musicians) and it’s full of the rustling, clattering keyboards that were his stock in trade during the eighties, which seem particularly appropriate for this kind of agitprop. Wyatt’s deep love of jazz marks the album, too – see the reference to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” that grounds “Gharbzadegi” – but he brings that genre’s flexibility into his songs into a particularly idiosyncratic way; slippery phrases, improvised cadences, all marked by Wyatt’s plaintive, plain-speaking voice.

Jon Dale

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