The Boomtown Rats

The Boomtown Rats

The Boomtown Rats

Best of the Boomtown Rats

Universal

How fortunate that just as Saint Bob Geldof prepares to revisit his greatest triumph, 1985’s Live Aid, with a series of huge summer concerts, this compilation lands on my desk allowing for a re-evaluation of his early musical career. The Irish six-piece band is perhaps best remembered for their 1979 hit “I Don’t Like Mondays,” but as this generous 19-track overview shows, they had much more to offer. And thanks to some remastering, these tracks sound better than they did before, and they often pack a punch.

It’s interesting to note that the Rats’ first self-titled album (represented by five tracks here) spawned not only their punk-y first U.K. hit, “Looking After No. 1,” but also the very Springsteen-like “Joey’s On the Street Again.” A pre-Shania Twain Mutt Lange produced both, along with many of the other songs here.

The Rats second album, Tonic for the Troops, included both the sneering, hiccuping “She’s So Modern” and the saxophone-led “Rat Trap,” which combines more Springsteen-isms with a touch of Elvis Costello and fellow countrymen Thin Lizzy.

Their third album, The Fine Art of Surfacing, is the one that featured the aforementioned “I Don’t Like Mondays,” a song about a California teen who went on a killing spree (and blamed it on the title lament). It’s brilliant, though an uncharacteristic piano ballad with strings and a dramatic Geldof vocal. Fine Art also included the Ray Davies-like “Someone’s Looking At You,” with its impossibly high harmonies.

1980’s Mondo Bongo included “Banana Republic,” a reggae-tinged protest song with strong words for the band’s native Ireland. “The Elephants Graveyard” is a terrific song that still sounds like prime Elvis and the Attractions. 1982’s V Deep had the impressive ballad “Never In a Million Years,” which holds up despite Tony Visconti’s dated production. That lamentable “80s sound” does, however, mar much of the band’s 1983 swansong, In the Long Grass, which included otherwise decent pop songs like “Dave” and “Drag Me Down.” Showy pianist Johnny Fingers is notably absent from the proceedings as well. And as we know, Geldof already had his mind on other things.

Still, there is more than enough on this retrospective to remind us of what was once great about these Irishmen. And just in time for Saint Bob’s triumphant return.

Bob Geldof: www.bobgeldof.info

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