The Soft Boys 

Underwater Moonlight (Matador)

Music history tends to stake its claims through hindsight. Two decades after the fact, this reissue is another attempt to revive a band that should have never fallen into these circumstances in the first place. The Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight is a lost recording of unequivocal and dazzling talent. Although it was, at the time, what amounted to cultists' pleasure, Underwater Moonlight remains a rare exception to the oft-overmythologized cult norm, in that it's a record that actually sounds good. More accurately, it sounds brilliant. The Soft Boys quietly (and probably unknowingly) made a record that stands up to time's brutal erosion and one that sounds better than anyone could have ever told you it did. From the Fripp-like guitars that open the record on "I Wanna Destroy You" to the stylized highbrow Robyn Hitchcock lyrics and delivery and the rampant sun-drenched harmonies, the entire album startles with its concise perfection of the pop-punk form.

The music ultimately is stranded on an island halfway between punk and new wave, and occasionally gets lost in its naive psychedelia (try "Kingdom of Love," with its jagged roots groove and Hitchcock singing "You've been laying eggs under my skin/Now their hatching out under my chin/Now there's tiny insects showing through/And all those tiny insects look like you"), all of which feeds a beast of unique nature, stuck in the queer trap of being utterly original. Matador has, of course, beefed up the original 10 tunes on Underwater Moonlight with numerous outtakes, demos, and other mishmash that results in this bloated double-disc presentation. But it doesn't matter how hit-and-miss the extras are -- the original 10 songs (which kick off the whole thing in sequence) mark a masterstroke of modern rock and roll.

More by Kurt Hernon


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