Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Boomtown Rats - The Fine Art Of Surfacing (1979)

There's a tap on the wire for every paranoid's desire....


Released October 1979

First of all, there is nothing wrong with this remaster, despite what seems to be popularly thought. It is full, clear and LOUD, as it should be. Diamond Smiles sounds particularly good. Big and bassy. Barely a treble note in earshot. Ditto Someone’s Looking At You. What is it with all these 50-60 somethings bleating on about rock music hurting their eardrums. Unbelievable. I am 60. The louder the better.

Now, to The Rats. I was never quite sure what they wanted to be - Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Willy De Ville, Lou Reed, Tom Petty, The Stones, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Richard Hell, Eddie & The Hot Rods, The New York Dolls? They were all of these but none of them. To me, they never forged their own identity. I keep saying it again and again on my reviews of their work, so I apologise for sounding like a broken record. They were always a "half way decent" band as far as I was concerned. Certainly not top quality. That is just my opinion, however, for many they were the best thing around in 1978-79. 

This album followed a couple of months after the group's huge number one hit with I Don't Like Mondays and, by late 1979, "new wave" was de rigeur, as opposed to punk, so there was precious little of the latter on here. In fact there was none. This was where the Rats finally threw off their "punk" credentials for good. It was certainly not a punk album, neither was it, in my opinion, much of a new wave one. 


1. Someone's Looking At You

2. Diamond Smiles
3. Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero)
4. Having My Picture Taken
5. Sleep (Fingers' Lullaby)
6. I Don't Like Mondays
7. Nothing Happened Today
8. Keep It Up
9. Nice 'N' Neat
10. When The Night Comes                         

That said, there are still a few killer tracks on here - the tongue in cheek, anthemic pop of Someone’s Looking At You, the sad, evocative Diamond Smiles, which was always my favourite track on here, the big now-iconic chart hit I Don’t Like Mondays and the mini-epic When The Night Comes. The latter ploughed the same overblown Springsteen-esque "street anthem" furrow as Joey's On The Street Again and Rat Trap from the two previous albums. It still has something about it, though.

Nothing Happened Today, Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero) and the riffy, Stonesy Keep It Up are all acceptable "new wave"-ish numbers. Having My Picture Taken tries to be a piece of new wave quirky pop, but it ends up sounding a bit silly, with a highly affected Bob Geldof vocal, while Nice 'N' Neat and Sleep (Fingers' Lullaby) have feel of "filler" about them. As an aside, I am sure the riff from Keep It Up is based on Bruce Springsteen's Badlands.

Despite my misgivings about the Rats in general, this was probably their best album, despite a certain patchiness.


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