Here’s another one from my dusty singles collection, most of them released between 1977 and 1980. It sounds startlingly similar to Styrofoam, by The Tyla Gang, which was one of the first singles on Stiff Records. It’s also got a similar jerky vibe to Richard Hell & The Voidoids.
People now seem to see them as post-punk, even though they were one of the first bands to form in the early days of 1976.
Coming from Cambridge, it’s no surprise that there’s an element of English whimsy lurking in The Soft Boys.
Most of their material (but not this) displays a psych-folk undercurrent that would increasingly come to the fore as time went by.
I bought their first few records, which included another single oddly – and irritatingly – titled (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp.
Their debut EP, Give It To The Soft Boys, was recorded in Robyn Hitchcock’s living room with Andy Metcalfe on bass, drummer Morris Windsor and guitarist Alan Davies, who had replaced Charlie Gillett’s half-brother Rob Lamb after only four gigs under their original name, Dennis and the Experts.
They would go on change their line-up, introducing new guitarist Kimberley Rew and bass guitarist Matthew Seligman – claimed by Covid in 2020 – and their sound to a jangle-pop style that influenced bands like The Replacements, R.E.M. and the LA Paisley underground scene.
But they broke up soon after its 1980 release, Rew forming the more successful Katrina and the Waves, who had the huge hit Walking On Sunshine and later won Eurovision, and Hitchcock forming a new band, Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians.
Over the years since, he has reformed The Soft Boys several times and carved out a solo career as a purveyor of a particular brand of English whimsy, with a gently psychedelic sound married to sardonic lyrics.
It’s not my cup of tea but this one – all 95 seconds of it – stands the test of time (even if its picture sleeve doesn’t).