'When you are bored with Anarchy
The first album I ever bought was, I think, To Hell With The Boys. I didn't leave home with the idea of buying it, I wanted Scared to Dance by The Skids. But Swansea WH Smiths didn't have that and To Hell With The Boys was reduced. Even better it came with a free song book which appealed to my nascent guitar playing dreams - nascent as I was unable to play anything that wasn't written down so a song book was perfect!
The record didn't disappoint, and its roots are definitely audible in these 2 earlier albums, re-released in June. The label says they are lost classics that never got the attention they deserved. The Boys were friends with all the original punks and they were the first such outfit to release an album on which they laid down the punk pop patent later adapted so successfully by the likes of Buzzcocks and a host of others; indeed their champions claim them as grandparents of bands such as The Strokes.
While that maybe true, I wonder if their subsequent relegation in the punk pantheon is because actually they weren't that 'punk'? On listening to the songs, they are very well written, well played, slightly snotty trashy guitar pop, but they lack any of the genre defining bile or energy or originality of the likes of The Clash or The Pistols or The Slits or The Gang of Four. You can tell that while some of their contemporaries looked to the bands like Iggy and the Stooges and The Ramones, The Boys were inspired by the song writing skills of Chuck Berry or even The Beatles.
So if you're expecting on these CDs to discover a band snarling with raw venom and anarchic slogans, you're going to be disappointed. If however you like well structured, catchy, guitar totin- pop songs with a slightly lads mag taste in humour, you will enjoy this collection. Tracks such as Brickfield Nights (with its enormous drum intro), First Time, Cast of Thousands (featuring a football terrace choir) or TCP still stand up as top of the genre sing-along punk pop songs, well crafted and performed and guaranteed to get your toes tapping and your heart singing.
Initially I was sceptical about the inclusion of rare and unreleased 'extras' on a second CDs with both albums, but far from being studio sweepings, many of them are interesting and worthwhile in their own right - the demo of Brickfield Nights for instance totally redefines the song. Inclusion of tracks by The Boys' slightly ruder alter ego The Yobs will appeal to those tickled by the humour of the likes of The Bloodhound Gang or GLC.
The quality of the song writing, the way the tracks are performed on the album and the enduring nature of the band's talent and appeal must begin to explain the demand for these albums to be reissued 35 years after they first came out, and why the band are reforming to play the songs live again. Perhaps it also explains why I prefer the later To Hell With the Boys, as it does the crafted guitar driven power-pop song thing so much more professionally.
And that's why I appreciate The Boys, not as some forgotten forefathers of punk, but as a band who wrote some top pop, frothy and fun. And that's why I am glad I bought that album all those years ago, whose song book proved useful again only last week as I taught 'Sabre Dance' from the album to one of my young guitar students.
Alternative Chart Busters indeed.
The albums are rereleased on June 3rd with a launch gig on June 22nd at The Borderline in London