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Classic Album Review: The Soft Boys | Underwater Moonlight … And How it Got There

One of indie-rock's finest albums gets the long-overdue reissue treatment.


This came out in 2001 — or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


As the story goes, almost nobody bought the first Velvet Underground album in the ’60s — but almost everyone who did formed a band. The ’80s equivalent of that tale would be U.K. post-punks The Soft Boys and their second album Underwater Moonlight. The masses all but ignored it, but artists from The Replacements to R.E.M. cite it as a major influence. Not hard to see why.

The Boys were led by the one and only Robyn Hitchcock, whose lanky figure and dry, druggy and demented delivery make him the Peter Cook of rock ’n’ roll. (Hitchcock’s idea of a romantic lyric is, “You’ve been laying eggs under my skin / Now they’re hatching out under my chin / Now there’s tiny insects showing through / And all them tiny insects look like you.”) The affable Dudley Moore to Robyn’s Cook is Beatle-coiffed guitarist Kimberley Rew, whose summery pop licks and upper-register harmonies struck a perfect balance with Robyn’s dark tales of lust and obsession. The combination produced one of indie-rock’s finest albums — 10 tracks of witty, superbly crafted pop with vividly memorable titles like I Wanna Destroy You, Insanely Jealous, Old Pervert and the above-quoted Kingdom of Love. This 20th-anniversary (give or take) reissue adds another nine outtakes — some of which, like He’s A Reptile and Where Are The Prawns?, are so good you gotta wonder why they didn’t make the cut — along with another CD of rehearsal tapes that document the disc’s evolution. Most of us missed out on this gem the first time around. Don’t let it happen again. And remember: It’s never too late to start your own band.