At last, a full fledged volume of nothing but Boomtown Rats! Clocking in at 78 minutes, not a pit of disc space left unused. It makes up for inadequacies of "Loudmouth" and "Great Songs Of Indifference" by removing Bob Geldof's solo material and reaching for a few obscure singles. Material from "In The Long Grass" ("Dave" and "Drag me Down") makes its first appearance ever on CD.
When Bob Geldof began the band, they were a brash bunch of surly deviants who were snarling punk anthems like "Looking Out for Number One." Within a single album they had jumped to classics. Songs like "Mary Of The Fourth Form," "Joey's On The Street Again," "Rat Trap" and the satirical "I Never Loved Eva Braun" from the glorious "Tonic For The Troops" turned the punk rock tag squarely on its backside, these were songs too smart to be mere anthems of nihilism. Johnny Fingers played the piano with more flair than many of the prog-rock slugs The rats were so cheerfully slagging, and Geldof's lyrics were both working class ("Rat Trap") and smart.
The follow-up, "The Fine Art Of Surfacing," also showed a band that was not about to sit on their laurels. By making the first single from that album the piano and orchestra masterpiece "I Don't Like Mondays," they threw everyone's expectations out the window. The rest of the album was equally stunning, with Geldolf coming on like a young Mick Jagger on "Diamond Smiles" and coming up with a Spanish flavor for "When The Night Comes." Much like "Joey's On The Street," "When The Night Comes" contained a near Springsteen lyric of escape and triumph ended that album on a high.
Something soured in the Rats' world by the time of "Mondo Bongo," if "Banana Republic" was any indication. A scathing indictment of Catholicism and Police brutality set to a reggae beat, it was that album's highlight. Almost as scorching was "The Elephant's Graveyard" which looked at the disintegration of Florida as a retirement paradise ("It's Disneyland under martial law"). Sad to say "Up All Night" is not included here.
From there, the albums got spotty. CBS even held off on releasing the next album, the synth heavy "V-Deep" in the U.S. Instead, a club oriented "Ratro-spective" disc was released with the stunning ballad "Never In A Million Years." ("House On Fire" would have been nice here, though.) It took Geldof's starring role in "Pink Floyd's The Wall" movie to force that title on the shelves.
But it was Geldof's sudden shift into activism that brought him into the real spotlight when he turned his attention to world hunger. Oddly enough, "Do You Know It's Christmas" went farther in America than any Rats record. By the time Live Aid happened and the Rats played one more stunning performance, they were pretty much burned out. The usual stupidity with record companies (CBS forced the song "Dave" to be recut for the US as "Rain," because the song might appear to be "too gay.") finally splintered the band after "In The Long Grass" came out. Fortunately the original recording of "Dave" is here. A fantastic last hurrah, it details Geldof's plea to a suicidal friend and sums up the Rats best work in a few lines.
"I see you bleed, I know you feel the squeeze.
But please, believe,
the view from on your knees
Keep going, Dave."
Perhaps as essential as the Clash or Sex Pistols - now how about ALL the albums released and remastered?