BOXSET REVIEW: The Boys …On Safari (Captain Oi!/Cherry Red Records)

The Boys were one of those bands associated with the burgeoning ’70s punk rock movement almost by default, as their sound was more edgy power-pop.

Singer/guitarist Matt Dangerfield and keyboard player Casino Steel had been in two of the most fabled proto-punk bands of the mid-70s, The Hollywood Brats and London SS, both of whose legend far outweighed any actual achievements.

It was only after they recruited guitarist Honest John Plain, bassist Duncan Reid and drummer Jack Black and formed The Boys in 1976 that they enjoyed a modicum of success, as part of the new wave which evolved from pub rock and glam.

Best known for the excellent singles First Time and Brickfield Nights, they lasted until 1982, releasing four studio albums. Curiously, they were more popular in Europe than the UK, and that’s been echoed since they reformed in 1999, as they’re now big in Japan.

This 5CD set concerns itself with 1979 onwards, when the band moved from NEMS to London indie label Safari for their third album To Hell With The Boys, which is disc one in the set.

It features the singles Kamikaze and Terminal Love, as well as their take on the traditional tune Sabre Dance, and is a decent enough record, but didn’t prove a massive hit with the record-buying public.

Things didn’t improve for their fourth album, 1981’s Boys Only, which is disc two here. It does include their version of the Sam Cooke classic Wonderful World, and the singles Weekend and Let It Rain, and again it’s a solid if unremarkable listen.

Steel had already departed, and the writing was on the wall for The Boys, who broke up in the summer of 1981.

Disc three, entitled Rarities, is interesting, bringing together 22 tracks from a variety of sources: singles, B-sides, demos and different mixes of songs from the two albums.

Some have been gathered before, on the 1990 compilation Odds And Sods, but there are enough unreleased tracks to make this worthy of attention. However, songs like Schoolgirls and Love In Pain make for uneasy listening, and it’s frankly unsurprising they never saw the light of day.

Disc four isn’t The Boys at all; it’s the Christmas Album by their alter egos The Yobs. As well as a handful of original songs it features the band kicking the hell out of festive favourites like Jingle Bells, Auld Lang Syne, Silent Night and Gloria, and it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Some of the lyrical content, acceptable in 1980, certainly isn’t nowadays, and it’s telling that Dangerfield, in his sleevenotes for the boxset’s booklet, has to point out that no offence was intended on a couple of the less-PC songs.

The final disc is the best, despite having just 10 tracks. It’s The Boys playing live in 1980 for the BBC In Concert series, originally released in 1993 as a split album also featuring a live set by The Vibrators. They’re on good form as they mix early favourites like First Time, Cop Cars and Brickfield Nights with songs like Rue Morgue and Kamizaze from then-current release To Hell With The Boys.

While The Boys never pulled up any trees as a band, they were enjoyable enough, and, outdated attitudes aside, the same can be said of much of this set covering the second part of their original career. 6/10.

Gary Welford owner