Too unseriously pop-minded for the punks and too punky for the power-poppers, well received nearly everywhere in Europe except at home in England, beset with label woes in the UK and name confusion in the US, the star-crossed Boys were perennially in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Norwegian expatriate Casino Steel (the band’s keyboard player and co-writer of much of their first three albums) was already a veteran of this sort of thing, having been a member of the Hollywood Brats, a London glitter band styled after the New York Dolls.
The Boys’ first album is an inconsistent (if promising) mélange of Steel’s Bratisms, standard punkarama and the stirrings of a Beatle (and other pop) influence. Alternative Chartbusters, though, presents infectiously rocking tunes played with irreverent élan, featuring bassist Duncan “Kid” Reid’s engagingly adolescent readings of the mostly humorous lyrics (often, as on To Hell With the Boys, playing the punk schlemiel) and guitarist Matt Dangerfield’s more winsome pop voice on the straighter tunes. All of it culminated in a pair of classic pop-punk singles, “Brickfield Nights” and “First Time.”
The third album, recorded in the tiny Norwegian town of the punny title, delivers more of the same, but with slicker and fuller sound — organ in addition to piano, more dual guitars — and more variety. Sadly, reverses (among them, Steel’s deportation) took their toll, and the Boys, as a quartet, made a fourth album that’s flatter than stale soda.
Under a not-very-obscure pseudonym, the Boys recorded an LP of Yuletide favorites (plus their own seasonal compositions) in various variations on pop-punk, sometimes just cute, but mostly skipping irreverence and heading straight for sheer tastelessness, e.g., “Silent Night” by Nazi-punks and “Twelve Days of Christmas” translated by “Oi” brigands into locker-room scatology. Subsequently, Boys guitarist Honest John Plain cut an LP, New Guitars in Town, with Lurker Pete Stride, supported by other members of both bands, who had formed an alliance of sorts. His subsequent solo album features Matt Dangerfield and likeminded punk pals from such bands as Die Toten Hosen, the Godfathers and the Vibrators.