Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Soft Boys • A Can of Bees

1-2 "great to be here," "sure is" 3-4...

YepRoc's new reissues of two great Soft Boys albums starts off with this intro to "Give It to the Soft Boys" on A Can of Bees (and continues with the Underwater Moonlight LP). Robyn Hitchcock's late '70s anglo rock band, hailed as being both punk and psych (a near collision of rock critic clichés), were a much overlooked group, only receiving their due when Robyn's solo career took off in the mid '80s with his brilliant I Often Dream of Trains and Fegmania! releases. Sure, some real enthusiastic power pop trainspotters were aware of "I Wanna Be an Anglepoise Lamp," the Soft Boys' single release on Radar UK, but for the most part, by then the band were not just cold but buried. Through some early reissues on smaller labels and then bigger ones like Rykodisc, the band's three albums (there was also the compilation Invisible Hits) gained acclaim as angular rock that wasn't punk, wasn't neo-psychedelic, wasn't power pop, but lodged somewhere in the overlap like a bed bug in a worn out sheet.

This time YepRoc has issued vinyl and CD versions of Bees and Moonlight that are faithful to the originals (barring the bonus tracks on the CDs, which are available as downloads for the vinyl buyer), but not wholly necessary unless you want the vinyl. A Can of Bees, the Soft Boys' first LP, is a punchy, locomotive of a rock elpee, chugging along with finely oddball tunes like "Leppo and the Jooves," about a band that jumps on anything that moves, including "taxis, coffin lids, Americans, pianos, heads and rooves," the elegaic "Human Music," which is a tune that reveals Hitchcock's more reserved side, and a live version of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey." You don't actually get "Anglepoise Lamp" on the LP, which is a shame, but then it wasn't on the LP in the first place. (It can be had on a few different compilations, including Rykodisc's 2CD 1976-1981 compilation.) As I said, vinyl addicts may want to pick these up if they're lacking wax for their Soft Boys tracks, especially Bees, which hasn't been out on vinyl since the early '90s. And Underwater Moonlight, the 5/5 classic that it is, is also a great buy if you don't have the early 2000s Matador release, which was 3 LPs + a 7" in the best packaging ever of a Robyn release. Both albums are must-haves in at least one configuration (your choice), so make sure you have 'em. And by the way, YepRoc recently announced the upcoming reissue of Nick Lowe's Labour of Lust, which ought to be a real corker considering it hasn't been reissued since it came out in '79!
4/5 (YepRoc)

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