The Soft Boys have turned out to be one of the most influential bands in shaping contemporary alternative music, though few are completely familiar with the quirky band's legacy. Formed in Cambridge, England in 1976 on the heels of the punk revolution, the Soft Boys eschewed the three-chord nihilism of punk and opted for a crude version of psychedelic/folk-rock that was well on its way out of fashion, but oddly, just on the cusp of a resurgence.
Robyn Hitchcock recruited Cambridge musicians Morris Windsor on drums, Andy Metcalfe on bass, and guitarist Alan Davies, and recorded Give It to the Soft Boys in Hitchcock's living room in 1976. Davies was soon replaced by guitarist Kimberley Rew. The band released a single, "(I Want to Be An) Anglepoise Lamp," followed by the Can of Bees album in 1979.
While recording the follow-up, Metcalfe left the band and was replaced by Matthew Seligman. The new lineup started fresh and recorded Underwater Moonlight, the album that found the band trading psychedelic jams for a more straight-ahead jangle pop-guitar rock sound. The LP has become extremely influential in the guitar rock canon -- the Replacements, R.E.M., and the L.A. Paisley Underground scene all claimed it as a prime influence. The album launched a thousand bands, but it turned out to be the Soft Boys' swan song. Two more recordings were released posthumously: the 2 Halfs for the Price of One EP in 1981, and some early sessions compiled on Invisible Hits in 1983. The first EP was re-released in 1984 as Wading Through a Ventilator.
Windsor and Metcalfe began to collaborate with Hitchcock again in 1984 as the Egyptians, while Seligman became an in-demand session musician and Rew went on to form Katrina & the Waves. Hitchcock has had a prolific post-Soft Boys recording career, sticking to the unusual style he's forged and finessed since 1976, with 15 albums to his credit. ~ Denise Sullivan
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