Home About The Boomtown Rats Record Reviews The Boomtown Rats (self-titled) Album Review
The Boomtown Rats (self-titled) Album Review Print E-mail

by David Clancy

Back in 1978, I bought Tonic For The Troops. This was one of the finest albums I had ever heard at that point in my life and since. Of course, I then sought out The Boomtown Rats back catalogue, which fortunately for a fourteen year old was not too extensive (two singles and an album).

The initial impression of the first album was a slightly darker more urban feel, than Tonic For The Troops. This is the sort of album that appeals to schoolboys aspiring to a life of driving a second-hand Capri, and spending their nights on the tiles.

Although the version of Mary of the Fourth Form differs on this album, the two singles are probably familiar to all. There is the breakneck sneering selfishness of Looking After No. 1, and the more bluesy teenage temptress called Mary, preempting Don't Stand So Close to Me. Both were great singles, and probably have been disected and fully discussed elsewhere, so let's move on.

Joey's on the Street Again is Rat Trap mark one, a big ballad like epic, tracing Joey's life from a lad around town, through marriage, his tragic death and aftermath, whose rising cresendo leads into one of the greatest sax solos/fade outs ever captured on record. There are obvious Springsteen comparisons, but this is probably the number one record that the Rats didn't have, prefering to not follow up Rat Trap with it.

Death, or more precisely attempted suicide, rears its ugly head again in Neon Heart. Lyrically, it's all over the place, like a drunken night on the town, but has a great riff throughout and some typically Rattish answering of the verses. Some great guitar work by Gerry Cott, a sign of what was to come.

Heavily influenced by Dr. Feelgood, (She's Gonna) Do You In is a great track which was a live favorite, when the Rats were touring with Tonic For The Troops. The comedown to near silence followed by the eruption of noise, loses a lot on record and does not have the same impact as hearing it live. Nevertheless, the sneering disrespectful attitude and Geldof's harmonica skills really make this work, and it's many changes of pace make it a stand out.

Close As You'll Ever Be also follows the suicidal theme, but is lightened by the thought of a perving Geldof being chased by a jealous boyfriend. Similar to (She's Gonna) Do You In, with its changes in pace and loud rocking guitars, this is another track that sounded far better live, especially when Pete Briquette's driving bass kicks in That is not to detract from the fact that this is still a great track on vinyl. A live version was captured on the B-side of Dave many years later.

Never Bite the Hand That Feeds goes off to the Dublin suburbs, not unlike Watch Out For The Normal People. In essence, a father's lament on his daughther growing up, but who turns out just like anyone one else. Another great guitar break from Cott , and a more up and at them song, than many of the others on the album.

Unusually personal for Geldof, I Can Make It If You Can, is something very heartfelt. Shades of Angie by the Stones, this is one of the Rats greatest moments where you can really feel the emotion coming through. Fingers' tinkling piano comes to the fore, as does the lingering guitar solo. Only Fall Down of their later work would compare in terms of emotional exposure.

From a personal point of view, Kicks was probably the stand out track when I got the album, expressing the frustrations of a sixteen year old, finding it hard to score, wanting to be a movie, rock or soccer star, and not being able to buy smokes or drinks. Not entirely unlike my own life then! Crashing chords and a real wig-out at the end make this a fine conclusion to a great album.

There are many dark themes in this album, and although you can hear the influences such as the Stones and Dr. Feelgood, it is unmistakeably the Boomtown Rats. Lacking some of the lightness of touch of Tonic for the Troops, the general rawness lends itself to a more night time and uban feel. Rat Trap and possibly Watch Out For The Normal People would be the only later songs that would have worked with this collection, even Living on an Island would be considered too lightweight to be on here!

This album has stood the test of time better than practically everything from the Boomtown Rats post-I Don't Like Mondays, due to it having a more classic garage rock, R'n'B feel. It would stand comparison to some of today's acts like The White Stripes, The Strokes or The Datsuns. When the album is reissued, it should be renamed The Brats with the original monochrome cover, and then it will make the top ten!

All in all, an album about sex, age and death, though maybe a little too much of the latter!

Written, and kindly submitted by David Clancy

 
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