As much as I pride myself on my ability to recall the release years of a very wide range of albums and songs, the order of when I myself found out about them sometimes gets a little jumbled, since during the years around high school and college I was devouring inordinate amounts of music. But I’m pretty sure that the Soft Boys’ awe-inspiring 1980 album, Underwater Moonlight (purchased at some point in the mid-1980s) was my introduction to the funny, brilliant, and willfully weird lyrical genius, Robyn Hitchcock, who led the group. It’s another one of those albums that has been more influential than it was successful, developing a devoted cult following over the years (influencing the likes of R.E.M. and Guided by Voices, among others). Hitchcock’s solo career has been far more successful, thankfully, which has been good for the Soft Boys’ legacy, giving all the more reason for their albums to be remastered and rereleased. A special edition of Underwater Moonlight was in fact rereleased in 2001 as Underwater Moonlight… And How It Got There, complete with a bonus second disc of demos and outtakes.
The lead track from Moonlight is “I Wanna Destroy You,” a powerful anti-war statement with a raw, metallic edge. It’s one of Hitchcock’s most cynical songs; typically he tempers his cynicism with playfulness, but not here:
I feel it coming on again
Just like it did before
They feed your pride with boredom
And they lead you on to war
The way you treat each other
Really makes me feel ill
Cause if you want to fight
Then you’re just dying to get killed
While many other Hitchcock creations have you feeling like you’re in some bizarre, Alice in Wonderland-like world, this pins you down in the world we actually live in and simply layers on feelings of dread and disillusionment. He was clearly not feeling charitable when conceiving this punkish, power-pop classic.