The Soft Boys, like so many other underground miscreants in the '70s, spent their formative years (unbeknownst to them) generating enough critical capital to earn much sought-after biographical adjectives like “influential” and “underrated.” The Robyn Hitchcock-led, Cambridge, England-born, pseudo-psych rock outfit's shared love for all things Byrds, Beatles, Dylan, and Syd Barrett was both venerated and blown to smithereens on their 1979 debut long-player, A Can of Bees. More angular and jarring than the band’s beloved 1980 follow-up, Underwater Moonlight, Hitchcock, Kimberly Rew, Morris Windsor, and Andy Metcalfe sounded positively possessed, channeling both '60s progressive rock and late-'70s punk into an unholy guitar-driven onslaught fueled by Hitchcock's surreal lyrics: opening a record with a line like “feel like asking a tree for an autograph” is one thing, but backing up those words with an atonal, apocalyptic blues riff is another. It’s an often brutish affair that works more often than it should, with highlights arriving by way of the pounding and addictive “Leppo and the Jooves,” the incendiary “Do the Chisel,” and the impossibly dumb but nearly perfect pop gem “Sandra’s Having Her Brain Out.” A Can of Bees has seen its fair share of iterations over the years, often boasting multiple bonus cuts and conflicting track listings (the impossibly prolific Hitchcock would eventually become notorious for this with his solo releases), but they’re all more or less complete, and the material continues to inspire, even if it’s only a handful of ears at a time.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2