The Soft Boys, Underwater Moonlight (1980)

Robyn Hitchcock has been producing unapologetically quirky indie-pop for so long it's all but impossible for me to pick a favorite.  (I'm partial to 1985's Fegmania, probably his most consistently solid album with wall-to-wall indie pop greatness, which I played the hell out of back in my college radio days; but there's been a shitload of memorable music in the 30+ (!!!) years since.)

But I thought I'd instead look backward, to Hitchcock's seminal Soft Boys days.  The Soft Boys (which also included guitarist Kimberley Rew, who went on to greater fame and fortune with Katrina & The Waves, as well as releasing several understated but catchy solo albums) produced a few below-the-radar albums in the late 70s before Hitchcock went solo (later enlisting some of his old bandmates as his backing band).  They combined post-punk immediacy with infectiously catchy, Beatlesque pop, all bound together with Hitchcock's often bizarre lyrical sensibilities -- occupying the space somewhere between Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and the Buzzcocks.  

The formula gelled best on their final album, 1980's Underwater Moonlight.  The album is widely divergent stylistically, from the opening, punk-ish anti-war anthem "I Wanna Destroy You" to the sweet Byrdsy jangle of "Queen of Eyes"; there's insistent power pop ("Positive Vibrations," "Tonight"), the almost proggy, retro epic title suite, and a weird little instrumental that sounds like a frenetic guitar warm-up exercise that wiggles into your brain ("You'll Have to Go Sideways").  It holds together well as a collection; and it's well-served by CD reissues which append a bunch of bonus tracks (most notably the wonderful "Only The Stones Remain").

Here's a video for "I Wanna Destroy You":
And Hitchcock with a live performance of "Queen of Eyes":

Also, just because this is so awesome, how about a live take on "Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole" (not on Underwater Moonlight, though appended as a bonus track on some versions), courtesy of Robyn Hitchcock with Yo La Tengo:



Buy it on Amazon.  (Unfortunately, the expanded reissues all appear to be out of print, but maybe if you look around you can find it used; the edition currently available appears to be sub-par.)

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