Wednesday, March 25, 2009


In 2001, Robyn Hitchcock reformed the Soft Boys to tour behind the 20th anniversary reissue of Underwater Moonlight (which turned out to be the 21st anniversary due to various delays). These shows provided an opportunity for American fans like me who never saw the Soft Boys play to finally see the band two decades later.

And the Soft Boys reunion show I saw at the Fillmore on April 7th, 2001 was one of the best concerts I've ever seen in my life! Since it was the Underwater Moonlight band (with Matthew Seligman on bass, Kimberley Rew on guitar, and Morris Windsor on drums) and they were ostensibly touring behind UM, they played mostly songs from that album, with a couple of earlier ones from A Can Of Bees ("Leppo" and "Human Music") and a few new songs the Boys had written after reforming. I thought the new songs sounded just as great as the older ones, so I was looking forward to a new Soft Boys album.

When Nextdoorland came out the following year, I was kind of disappointed. The songs I'd heard at the Fillmore ("Sudden Town" and "My Mind Is Connected") sounded just as good as they did at that show, but I thought it was three good songs and seven spotty ones. When they played S.F. the following year (at Slim's), they were selling a self-released bonus EP called Side 3, which added a few more good songs (most notably "Narcissus"). I tend to think of Nextdoorland and Side 3 as a single unit that makes a lot more sense than its individual components.

Yesterday I found this Nextdoorland-era quote from a Rolling Stone interview with Robyn (while looking for release info on Robyn Sings) about fans reactions to the album, and it struck me as particularly apt: "They'll be initially pleased to hear it, and then they'll say it's not as good as Underwater Moonlight and then about five years down the line they'll probably get to like it on its own merit". Six years later, that's my opinion of Nextdoorland in a nutshell -- it's not Underwater Moonlight II, but I've come to like it on its own merit.


B said...

Nextdoorland has aged incredibly well for me, and I do hope it grows in stature over time.
Those reunion shows really were amazing -- one of the few reunions that I found completely satisfying! Not only did I get to see one of my favorite bands, but they managed to put out new music that was inspired.

I agree that "Narcissus" is definitely a great, lost classic.

It's a shame the live album they recorded at that Fillmore show has never been released -- I hope those tracks surface someday.

The Modesto Kid said...

Yeah, it's definitely not on the level of UM; but "Mr. Kennedy" is a truly amazing song (and also "I Love Lucy", I think that might be my favorite instrumental by RH), and I like every track on the record except for "Strings" and "La Cherite".

Steve said...

I forgot about "Mr Kennedy". That was another song they debuted on the 2001 tour. And "I Love Lucy" is a great album starter, but my favorite RH instrumental will always be "You'll Have To Go Sideways".

Thomas Dolby joined them for that one at the Fillmore show. I hope a professional recording of that show finds its way out someday, even as a bootleg.