THE SOFT BOYS : (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp 7" (1978)

Now then, though I've never been a fully paid-up acolyte of The Church Of Robyn Hitchcock, there's no denying that The Soft Boys knocked out a freakishly decent album or 2. The majority of their back catalogue has recently been reissued again, c/o Yep Roc this time 'round. However, despite a plethora of (download only) bonus tracks, the band's vital early singles have once again been overlooked - is Robyn making a concerted effort to distance himself from them, or what? The 2nd, 1978's "(I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp" on Radar, is arguably one of their finer moments - a near-perfect compound of lysergic Barrett-fuelled psych/wonk & Python-esque suburban Surrealism that neatly condenses the first 4 XTC albums into a single, surging 3 minute power pop blipvert. It still sounds terribly exciting, 30-odd years later, & Robyn's mock rock grunt (36 seconds in) never fails to make me smirk. First-rate Barney Bubbles sleeve too.

Though many of The Softs' initial sessions exhibited little more than a lingering comedic debt to The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band & a surfeit of borderline annoying undergraduate humour (particularly live), it's perhaps only fair to put them into the glum pre-punk context of Cambridge c.1975 & imagine how fresh an alternative their deviant music hall whimsy must've provided back then, for hungry music lovers driven to lemming-like seppuku by the soporific drivel of Jackson Browne & The Eagles, et al. Ultimately, the flab-free rush of "Anglepoise" & the sinister Magic Band boogaloo of it's B-side, "Fatman's Son", atone for any earlier, rhetorical indiscretions, ditto A Can Of Bees' fearsome angularity. Crucially, Robyn's songs have always suggested that his eccentricities were/are, on the whole, genuine, whereas the gurning smart arses who followed in his wake (a.n.d.y.p.a.r.t.r.i.d.g.e.) always looked & sounded as if they were trying w-a-y too hard.

I'm sure it goes without saying that Underwater Moonlight is one of the best LPs of the immediate post-punk era, but give the lesser known Invisible Hits a listen too - despite it's somewhat impromptu nature, it's actually a beast of an album.


  1. Woah, I never noticed your blog before. Great stuff here.

  2. Worked briefly with Robyn when I was at Midnight Music and did press on things like Eye. Big note to self - flog all those Soft Boys CDs!

    PS Have you seen the Nec No 9 T-shirt at Gold Mine Trash? I had a bit of a flurry last week...

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Brushback...

    Andy, didn't realise you had a M.M. connection - does this mean you have mountains of McCarthy merch stowed away in your loft? I've left a comment (re: that shirt) btw.

  4. Yeah run by Nick Ralph who was big on the late 60s scene. He offered me a job doing press when he bought out my old label Medium Cool.

    Not sure there was much McCarthy merchandise other than badges and maybe one T-shirt with the Get A Knife Between Your Teeth image - went against there 'Marxist' principles I guess. They were less than pleased when I got them in all the music press with a blatant lie that they'd been at the poll tax riots with McCarthy against the poll tax placards...

    Do have the white labels for the unreleased That's All Very Well But... & ...We'll Get You You Creeps bonus album. Great group.

  5. Interesting! Weren't The Popguns on Medium Cool? (Strokes chin, etc...)

    N.B. I've got a That's All Very Well white label but not Creeps, is it worth a listen then? Somebody needs to write a book about McCarthy. Or, perhaps more fittingly, a mimeographed pamphlet! Yes, a great, great band...

  6. Creeps was planned as a bonus with the first 5000 copies of TAVWB I think. It won"t be particularly visual but I will speed up a post on the compilations v soon.

    The Popguns were on MC for one of the label's final releases. I put together a fairly comprehensive 2CD overview of my label called The Punk Rock Itch which was going to come out on Cherry Red until I got pissed off with them.

    Much overdue package of stuff including my failed second label V-Sign releases will be at the mercy of the Royal Mail when you email your address to andrew@dontpanicprojects.com

    Will put that Win collage poster in too...

  7. What's this? FREEBIES?? I knew this blog lark'd pay off eventually! Many thanks, but don't send me anything you're gonna regret parting with later though, eh?

    Re: Win. A few odds & ends have finally popped up on Youtube. I've only just found them you've possibly "been there / done that" already, but I'm still very pleased to see them on there - I'd figured that there was ZILCH in the vaults, basically... This one's particularly good:


    The more snippets of personal info you allow to leak out the more I'm intrigued! Never heard of V-Sign, great name for a label though, you defo need to ramble on about this & your Medium Cool / Midnight Music / Cherry Red experiences at length, folk are gagging to read anything new about that era these days after all (I'm sick of reading about Rough bloody Trade quite frankly!). What other reveleations have you got up your sleeve then then, sir...?

  8. Totally agree with Novemberer that the "history" and "origins myth" of independent seventies and eighties labels has been codified within the narrow discourse of Rough Trade as the transcendental signifier around which all the other labels revolved and reflected the Rough Trade godhead.

    I loved reading about the "Medium Cool / Midnight Music / Cherry Red" thread...maybe Novemberer needs to do an interview with Andy Wake...come on Novemberer, go all Hoxton "medjawhore" on us or wherever it is the meme parasites live these days.

    Did someone mention showering this blog with freebies??? About fucking time!

  9. No offence to Rough Trade or anything, they obviously put out some incredible (INCREDIBLE!) records, but also rather a lot of opporuntistic tat (which everybody conveniently forgets when penning their retrospective post-punk tomes...).

    N.B. Weren't The Wolfhounds on Midnight Music later on too? I've been listening to them rather a lot recently, I'd forgotten how off-kilter a band they were...