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A Can of Bees

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The Soft Boys eventually gave birth to Katrina & The Waves and the solo career of Robyn Hitchcock. In their own time, they were an underground phenomenon whose legacy influenced the ‘80s college-radio sound. Their 1979 debut album,A Can of Bees, has guitars that are snarling and Hitchcock-ready with a voice that can phrase a lyric. “Give It to the Soft Boys” states “Feel like asking a tree for an autograph / And I feel like making love to a photograph” with a true sense of purpose. “Human Music” features chiming guitars that sound nicked from the Beatles’ Revolver, with a reflective tone that sounds like the Byrds and Syd Barrett making musical love. “Leppo and the Jooves,” “Do The Chisel” and “Sandra’s Having Her Brain Out” are infectious neo-psychedelic numbers that position Hitchcock as a mad scientist breaking test tubes in the lab. The version of John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” is strong and deliberate. This 2010 reissue includes a John Cale-like cover of “Heartbreak Hotel,” along with fantastic bonus cuts such as “Blues In the Dark” and “When I Was a Kid.”

Customer Reviews

my choice for best Soft Boys

Though Robyn H has alternately praised and disavowed it, I'd humbly choose it by a razor-thin margin over "Underwater Moonlight" as my favorite Soft Boys LP. It's messy and sprawling, true. On "Can of Bees", they pulled punk ("The Pigworker"), barbershop ("Sandra's Having Her Brain Out"), Syd Barrett lyrics, and occasional nearly Zeppelinesque riffwork ("The Asking Tree") together into one package, often against odd time signatures ("Leppo and the Jooves"). Somehow the tension created by the nexus of those four directions, along with many more that I'm too lazy to point out right now, works. They'd tamed that beast by the time they moved on to "Moonlight", whose smoother sound is hinted at here on "Human Music". Though "Moonlight" boasts a more cohesive sound (perhaps because of the move to Matthew Seligman on bass, as "Bees" bassist and later Egyptian Andy Metcalfe was given to looking for odd angles on Robyn's materials), I find the screwiness of this release more endearing.


Formed: 1976 in Cambridge, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '00s

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...
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