The Soft Boys Re-issue A Can of Bees 

Long out-of-print debut gets new life

Robyn Hitchcock has been making noise for three-and-a-half decades. While you might know him from the Egyptians or the Venus 3 or his enduring solo career, before he was an Egyptian or a Venusian, Hitchcock was leader of The Soft Boys.

The Soft Boys' breed of jagged, confident rock 'n' roll resists categorization: not quite punk, not quite psychedelia and not quite New Wave, but close enough to stay dry under the umbrellas of all three. This reissue of the long-out-of-print 1979 debut captures Hitchcock's eccentric surrealist swagger in a louder, rawer fashion than his later work. Although it lacks the scope and balance of their masterpiece, Underwater Moonlight, it is still a satisfying, worthwhile effort.

The opening track, "Give it to the Soft Boys," hits hard with sharp riffs and choppy chords that stab through Hitchcock's wild screams preceding the chorus.

"The Pigworker" sucker-punches the listener with a faster, more persistent guitar hook, and in "Human Music" the boys slow down, delivering a ballad of longing and absurdism: "I hung the phone up many times on angels when they rang / Their melodies were sickly sweet like overripe meringue." The album finishes with three live recordings, including a faithful cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey."

A sticker on the packaging promises a "Download of Digital Album plus 9 Tracks of Rare and Unreleased Music," but at the Yeproc website, the only song provided was "Human Music," which the CD already includes. When these issues surface, the decision to provide the bonus tracks as downloadable material instead of including them on the album makes little sense. Therefore, as an expanded reissue, this purchase is a letdown, but as a classic album in its own right, A Can of Bees is well worthwhile.

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