Monday, 10 December 2012
Top 102 Albums. No 84. A Tonic for the Troops.
Top 102 Albums. No 84.
A Tonic for the Troops - The Boomtown Rats.
Time has not been kind to The Boomtown Rats. They are generally written off as a side project of that famous philantrophist and controversialist Bob Geldof. But there was a time when they were one of the biggest bands in the world, and whats more, they came from just a few miles away. I even saw Johnny Fingers in his trade mark pyjamas walking past Trinity College when I was in Dublin City Centre shopping with my family. That practically made me a celebrity.
It's funny, I can be listening to this album and it is passing me by and I think that the sound is sort of beefed up seventies FM rock and that Geldof remains far outside the songs, wry, often precisely observant, but almost disengaged. He doesn't give much away and my favourite records tend to be one where the singer has given so much away they can barely keep going.
But then a chord or a sax break unlocks something and I'm eleven years old and it sounds like the most exciting music in the world. It's flash and polished but also thrilling music. And Geldof is already wrestling with life and death issues - suicide, domestic violence, the lying media, social deprivation, euthanasia and whether or not Hitler loved Eva Braun.
Driving past The Five Lamps on the way down to my grandmother's I would feel a frisson of excitement. These are "the Five Lamps boys", these are the high rise blocks, that could be "little Judy" there with her hands deep in her coat pockets and her mouth pinched by the cold wind of hopelessness.
It's funny, angry, literate and knowing pop. The bile in the line "Oh ain't you glad that we live on an island" a song in which Bob seems to be telling us to kill ourselves was right on target. Still is. He may have written a better suicide song (Diamond Smiles) and a better evisceration of 'this septic isle' (Banana Republic) but it was great to hear one of our own say that the place was a shithole.
He may have been "a little too ambitious maybe" but Bob's heart was in the right place, just like Adolf's.
And just for another bonus track here's Bob "Citizen Smith*" Geldof railing against the "Police and Priests."