New wave favorites make long-awaited return
Sometimes in the music industry, artists become greater than their art. They become so popular from name recognition and deeds alone that their musical contributions become overlooked. Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats are a good example of this phenomenon.
That isn’t to say that the Rats are a band that makes forgettable music- in fact, this is quite the opposite. From 1977 to 1985 the Irishmen produced several hit singles in Britain; and topped the charts with “Rat Trap” in 1978 and “I Don’t Like Mondays” in 1979. They never really made a dent in the U.S. markets, as “Mondays” was the only song of theirs ever to gain real exposure stateside, but in the U.K. they had a solid following.
However, the band’s music was heavily overshadowed by what they did offstage- Geldof especially. After his band’s breakup, the vocalist became one of the loudest humanitarian voices in the entire music industry and wound up co-founding Live Aid, one of the largest charity events and stage shows the entertainment world has ever seen. All of the top artists in the world gathered to play at both Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadephia in front of a combined audience of over 150,000 people, and at the end of it over roughly 1.9 billion people (40% of the world’s population!) had tuned in to watch. Geldof is still active today as an adviser to the ONE Campaign, an African relief effort headed by fellow Irishman and the musical king of philanthropy himself, Bono.
That all being said, The Boomtown Rats are back in the spotlight as a band again- they quietly reformed in 2013 and after a few sporadic tours, have finally released their first album in 36 years, Citizens of Boomtown.
Citizens of Boomtown begins authoritatively with the foot-stomping “Trash Glam Baby,” with an intoxicating little bassline and a backing chorus. After that comes album standout “Sweet Thing,” which combines bar-room piano hits with cheeky handclaps and grungy guitars, tied together with a pinch of the Rats’ trademark eccentricity. There’s a nice experimentation of genre on here- and it hits the mark on tracks like the bluesy, harmonic-augmented “She Said No,” and the surprising electronics on the two closing tracks, “Get A Grip” and “The Boomtown Rats.” Other times, however, the experimentation misses badly: the Autotuned bro-country warblings of “K.I.S.S.” are tough to stomach, and “Rock n’ Roll Ye Ye” attempts to be a giant hair-metal power ballad but comes out as nothing more than cheesy instrumentation and lyrical clichés.
Despite the few misfires, there are far more good tracks than bad, and it’s refreshing to know that Geldof and Co. still have plenty left in the tank to produce a quality record. It’s a solid comeback for a band that’s been away for far too long, and let’s hope it takes less than 36 years to put out the next one after this.