England - Full Moon 169 - 06/26/10
The Soft Boys: The Soft Boys
Following up our retro scope series of 2006 and 2007 - here's the New Speakers' corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves/vaults of rock. This moonth the Lunar spotlight has caught an album turning 30 years old - released June 28th 1980. The second - and final! - studio album from bravely bold 'Sir' Robyn and his neo-psychedelic knights. "One-two! Great to be here - sure is! ...three-four..."
The Soft Boys
The Kinks are well respected men, but Robyn Hitchcock for sure is another well-respected Englishman. At least among hordes of musicians (R.E.M. to mention one bunch of many U.S. guitar bands hailing TSB to be a major influence, with Peter Buck being one of the Venus 3 - Hitchcock's backing band). And, he's still got quite a number of fans around. Propellor Time (Sartorial Records), his 17th studio album, was due in March this year. A surf through his back-catalogue is highly recommended, as is a tour throughout the Soft Boys' archives. Their debut, A Can of Bees (Two Crabs Records, 1979), was smashing. Neo-psychedelic cheerful post-punk, jingle-jangly new-wave with a sense of humour. You should also check some of the compilations/collections/rarities samplers: Two Halves for the Price of One (Armageddon 1981) and Invisible Hits (1983), or the awkwardly entertaining live album Live at the Portland Arms (recorded in 1978, originally put out on cassette, in 1983; released on LP in 1988), with songs done a capella, folk wise or barbershop styled.
The Beatles, The Kinks, Pink Floyd (Syd!), The Byrds, The 13th Floor Elevators, Captain Beefheart - The Soft Boys looked back to the 60s and sucked on influences from both sides of the Atlantic. They started out at the same time as The Only Ones. Both bands formed in 1976, and they both had this raw sounding, melodic guitar rock signature. Slightly similar, and something different from the more punk and new wave bands from that era. As mentioned, Soft Boys (as well as The Only Ones) drew more from the 1960s influences. That said, The Hitchcock's lyrics were more humoristic (tongue-in-cheek) and extrovert than Peter Perrett's more introvert and nightmarish ones.
Underwater Moonlight kicks off with the smashing "I Wanna Destroy You", which is (nearly) 3 minutes of perfect power-pop-rock. And this is just the beginning of an album crammed with catchy and enchanting tunes. "Positive Vibrations", "Tonight", the very Kinksy-Byrdsy "The Queen of Eyes", and the title track are good examples of melodic artistry or pop craftsmanship. "Kingdom of Love" is another favourite of mine, being a bit more complex song, with neat, twangy guitars. Hitchcock was the main songwriter, but the somewhat different instrumental "You'll Have to Go Sideways" is co-written with Kimberley Rew (who put out his solo debut, The Bible of Bop), the year after Underwater Moonlight -- later he formed Katrina and the Waves, but that's some other story). The twisted blues-rocker "Old Pervert" is a team-work credited to the whole group; Hitchcock, Rew, Morris Windsor (drums), Matthew Seligman (who replaced original bass-player Andy Metcalfe between the first and second album).
When playing through Underwater Moonlight again, I feel the album's good vibe, or rather, 'positive vibrations'. It's without doubt a true classic. It also makes me recall when my old band Softcocks (The Soft Boys + Buzzcocks - get it...?) opened up for Robyn Hitchcock in Trondheim, early 1990s (1992?). Or rather, Hitchcock opened for us, as he played first. When it was our turn we opened our set with "Give it to the...uh...Softcocks", Robyn watching from the back of the venue. Hopefully he noticed the humour implied and the homage it was meant to be.
Copyright © 2010 Håvard Oppøyen