Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Give It To the Soft Boys" / The Soft Boys


When necessary, of course, Robyn Hitchcock can rock out like nobody's business. Exhibit A: this 1:36 track from 1977, when he was with a sorta-punk band called the Soft Boys. I say sorta-punk because their music's just too goofy to fit the punk mold; it was stripped-down and loud, but without all that baggage of rebel angst and political defiance. I mean, who could take seriously a punk band called The Soft Boys? I read somewhere a description of them as psych-punk. That fits as well as anything, I'd say.

This song doesn't have much to it except a very catchy repeated bass hook, a primitive drum beat, and occasional passages of chugging guitar strums; Robyn lets loose with a couple of manic primal squeals as well. Beyond that, it's Robyn reeling through the sort of non-sequiturs that have become his stock in trade: "Feel like asking a tree for an autograph / And I feel like making love to a photograph / Photographs don't smell." I guess you could make a case for that being punk; it's anti-social, all right -- that is, it would be if Robyn sounded halfway serious. Which he doesn't.

Verse three pretends to explain things, but it just goes off into wacky-land: "Well hard boys groove and white boys masturbate / But them soft boys wind up with, uh, Dr. Messerschmidt / He just one-o-nines 'em." Whaa--? It might make sense if we knew who Dr. Messerschmidt was; maybe he's a shrink, maybe a tense German doctor with a duelling scar, an expert in torture methods that don't show bruises. And does anybody have any idea what "109-ing" someone is? I don't, but plenty of weird things come to mind.

Nevertheless. This song is way too gleeful, too madcap, to resist. "Give it to the Soft Boys!" he crows in the chorus, after that oddball scream. Give what to the Soft Boys? Whatever you want.

NOTE: This Give It To the Soft Boys sample is the best I could find, but it's a live version done 30 years later by Hitchcock with the Venus 3, not nearly the pared-down little beauty you'll find on Can of Bees or that must-have Soft Boys compilation 1976-1981. Still, you get the bass riff and the scream.

1 comment:

Ian McLeod said...

Messerschmidt was head of an aeronautical company in Nazi Germany who designed the Messerschmidt-109 fighter plane, and later, the ME-262 fighter jet (the first operational jet powered combat aircraft). So 109-ing must be attacking someone with a Nazi fighter-plane. ^_^

I know these posts are old, but I love reading about Robyn. He's the man!