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Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Boomtown Rats: In The Long Grass

THE BOOMTOWN RATS: IN THE LONG GRASS (1984)

1) Dave; 2) Over And Over; 3) Drag Me Down; 4) A Hold Of Me; 5) Another Sad Story; 6) Tonight; 7) Hard Times; 8) Lucky; 9) An Icicle In The Sun; 10) Up Or Down.

And here comes the forgotten, disgraceful final chapter. Granted, Geldof's chief interest by that time had completely shifted from his veteran band to fresher and more exciting stuff — such as singing for Christmas and organising Live Aid. But what if it wouldn't? Does that mean that The Rats would then have been able to produce a record on the level of A Tonic For The Troops? Obviously not — they were way too far gone from the days when Thin Lizzy and Bruce Spring­steen were their shining stars. In this misguided urge to fit in the times, having tried out almost everything, they finally became a social-message-oriented copy of Duran Duran: a mix of guitar and synth pop, with some futuristic flair but almost completely without hooks, not to mention total atrophy of a sense of humor. Well, of course it is hard to retain your sense of humor when you are worrying over Ethiopian famine, but maybe in this context a more wise decision would have been to simply pack up and return to the studio some other day, or not return at all.

Here's ʽDaveʼ — a song inspired by a friend's nervous breakdown over the death of his girlfriend from overdosing. I hope the «Dave» in question was touched and maybe even relieved, and it is difficult not to feel real emotion in Geldof's voice (although, frankly speaking, by now Geldof was almost always singing in this «choking-on-tears-on-a-regular-basis» register, so you get used to it fairly quickly). But musically, the song feels like a trivial toss-off, its main «hook» being a moody jazz-fusion-esque bassline which is commonly equated today with cheap adult contem­porary — do not expect catharsis on a ʽComfortably Numbʼ level. (Ironically, the industry people had Geldof rewrite the song's lyrics and release it as ʽRainʼ rather than ʽDaveʼ for the American market — guess they weren't all that moved with the story, either).

Here's ʽDrag Me Downʼ, also released as a single and containing some unmistakeable harmony nods to the Beach Boys, both in the choral «dee-dee-dee-dee»'s and on the SMiLe-style "like a ship that's going under..." part. You couldn't argue that this song is completely empty of hooks. But you could argue that its attempt to build up to high heavens does not work — the electronic keyboards are too flat and corny, the overall arrangement is too muddy, and most importantly, Geldof as the singing preacher-poet just does not engage attention as much as Geldof the rowdy street punk. He's too whiny here to be Springsteen, and too range-limited and weak-voiced to be Bono. His rock poetry is probably the best aspect of these songs — at least, it is the only aspect which consistently turns out to be much less predictable than you'd expect from someone who could already be defined as «social activist» first, and «musician» second.

Here's... but no, I already feel depressed simply considering the fact that I'd have to try and waste time explaining why all these songs, though probably recorded with the best of intentions, have absolutely no appeal. The reasons are really the same all over. No outstanding guitar parts (most of the melodies are loaded with electronic effects, but they cannot even harness them properly, like King Crimson). Generic synthesized keyboards. Robotic, lifeless rhythm sections. Every­thing converted to tragic romance, care of Geldof's patented "I CARE!" vocals. Perfect material for an irate, disgruntled thumbs down.

Ironically, the more he CAREs, the more we get the impression that he really doesn't — not about the music, that is. At the very, very least it is clear that In The Long Grass is a solo album; there is abso­lutely nothing here to suggest the presence, or the necessity of an actual «rock band». Perhaps the Live Aid business was clouding Geldof's mind at the time — but with the whole affair finally over, the most sensible thing left to do was to officially let go of the band and go solo. (Actually, I think it was the last remaining members that got fed up with the thing and told Bob to go about his own business — sensible lads).

1 comment:

  1. A lot of red pieces left the Rats over time.

    ReplyDelete