One of the biggest bands of their generation and fronted by a real larger than life character the first album from legendary Dublin band The Boomtown Rats in thirty-six years is finally out. Gerry Mellon gives us the rundown on the Rats sixth album.
Before I start, I must tell you that when Bob and the lads announced a tour after their big success at the Isle of White festival in 2013, I was one of the first people in the queue for tickets. Their return to London at Camden’s Roundhouse the following year was absolutely fantastic. When they played Rebellion in 2015, Bobs digs at “old bald blokes in black tee shirts and Primark shorts”, showed us he had lost none of his acerbic wit! Many were disappointed, I was delighted. So, when the head Celtic Punk said the Boomtown Rats had a new album out, I was the perfect fella to take a look at it. I was almost as excited as when I heard John Peel introduce Looking After No 1 on his legendary show back in the 70s.
Many of you will have heard Trash Glam Baby, the first single off the album. It’s also the first track on it. The hints toward Bowie and ‘Glam Rock’ are plain to hear and made me wonder what direction this album was going in. It’s not the in your face outpouring of youth angst that the first, self-titled, disc delivered. In fact, the hook line “Another Shit Saturday Night, would seem to apply to a jaded middle aged narrator. The type of person many of us aging punks has become. Anyway, it’s a good, if not exciting, opening track. Sweet Thing is the second track and the minute it starts, you think you’ve heard it somewhere before. It is so reminiscent of Neon Heart from the first album, that if someone else did it the Rats would soon have them in court!! That’s not to say that it’s a bad track, in fact it sounds quite strong and I’d love to hear a live version.
Monster Monkeys is the third track, and it’s a flat-out bluesy offering, rhythm runs right through it and it features some great guitar work. You can picture The Nightlife Thugs (the Rats original name) playing this back in the day in Dublin. When an experienced group of musicians and producers get together and really gel, then you get excellent tracks like this. I’m not too sure what it’s about, but it’s a cracker that gets better with every listen. More R’nB follows on track four with She Said No. Old school rhythm and blues played with heart and soul, a sexy blast of fun. This track would be a brilliant live one, getting the crowd to join in with the No No Nos!! Love this one. Track five is Passing Through, an apt title because it’s one of those that after the first couple of listens you just skip passed it! I’m not sure if it’s an attempt at a ballad or a pastiche of those awful 80s cringe songs that used to turn up in shite movies or on Miami Vice! Jayzus lads, but it’s a poor effort from ye! A dirge!
Thankfully track six’s Here’s A Postcard lifts the mood with a sound like a 60s mod band singing about sunny London. It makes me jealous of the London summers now that I’m living on the western edge of the continent. It’s an upbeat song about sunshine, quite poppy, but still well worth listening to. Maybe a summer single? Track seven is another, better, upbeat number called K.I.S.S and this one is brilliant, just plain brilliant! It’s a mishmash of styles from folk to hip hop and it works a treat.
If you remember Billy Joel’s We Didn’t start the Fire, well this is similar, but much more listenable and singable and danceable. A standout track. I’ll have to give it a few more spins to find out what it’s about, but the beginning chorus line of “Oh Shut Your Mouth” had me singing along and thinking of the late great Joe Strummer. (Really good tracks have that effect on me!! Dunno why!!).
Track eight brings us Rock ‘n Roll Ye Ye Ye, a song that will make you think of the great Southern Rock acts from the US like Lynyrd Skynrd. It’s a good rock standard, singing the praises of our own culture. How a blast of good old Rock ‘n’ Roll can cure so many ills. Great backing singers on this and a very good track. Get A Grip is track nine and at the start you think a Pet Shop Boys tribute act are starting, but it soon morphs into a pleasant enough quick beat type of track, the tempo is great and pushes it through really well. The last track is a live favourite, The Boomtown Rats. I’d guess that most of you will have heard it by now, it’s not the best track on the album, but it’s still a glorious sing/shout along number that the band use to introduce their shows.
So that’s it, ten tracks from Dublin’s finest. I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised. Anyone who has listened to some of Bob’s solo work will know he always had that edginess to his writing. Well it’s on display here, although the rest of the band have smoothed down the really hard edges. It’s not A Tonic For The Troops, but is that no bad thing? The band has changed and grown just like the rest of us. There are no real Celtic style songs here, but with any band that hails from Ireland you can feel the Irishness in the melodies and the composure of the music. There are four standout tracks on this album, the rest are way better than average apart from maybe one real turkey of a song that should have been shot the minute it escaped Bob’s lips. They’re doing a tour once this virus has been beaten and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate beating the virus than spending time with The Rats!
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Tagged: Boomtown Rats