Thursday, 1 November 2018
The Boomtown Rats - The Boomtown Rats (1977)
Released September 1977
1. Lookin' After No. 1
2. Mary Of The 4th Form
3. Close As You'll Ever Be
4. Neon Heart
5. Joey's On The Street Again
6. I Can Make It If You Can
7. Never Bite The Hand That Feeds
8. (She's Gonna) Do You In
As I have said in other Boomtown Rats reviews, they were one of the most derivative groups around. Although the lead-off track, the hit single "Lookin' After No. 1" is a wonderful, frenetic, classic punk single, nothing else about this album is really punk, although The Rats had been toting the punk attitude around Ireland since 1975. Their influences were manifold - Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, Steve Harley, Lou Reed, Mink De Ville, The New York Dolls, Sparks, Alice Cooper, glam rock, Dr. Feelgood....the list goes on and on. They are all on this debut album of theirs, all over it.
"Mary Of The 4th Form" was also a hit, but it is not punk at all. To me it sounds a bit like The Sweet circa 1974-75. It has glam rock merging into heavier rock feel about it. "Close As You'll Ever Be" is a New York Dolls-ish glammy rocker. It has killer riffs and a David Johansen influenced vocal from Bob Geldof. "Neon Heart" has a cowbell and chunky guitar riff sound and a Lou Reed meets the New York Dolls vocal. This stuff isn't punk, even though the band found their way on to the back of the punk bandwagon and had "Rats" in their name. This is glammy, riffy rock. Not that it isn't enjoyable. It is. Very much so. In many ways, The Rats were musically much better than your average punk band.
"Joey's On The Streets Again" is one of the album's two extended, cinematic tracks. It is packed full to the brim with Springsteen-isms, even down to the bullhorn Clarence Clemons-style saxophone. It is also a copper-bottomed predecessor for the massive hit "Rat Trap", vocally, lyrically, musically and stylistically. "I Can Make It If You Can" has Geldof sounding like Steve Harley on the other lengthy number. It even quotes Springsteen from "Thunder Road" in its "screen door slams" line. It also sounds so much like The Rolling Stones on 1974's "It's Only Rock n Roll" album.
"Never Bite The Hand That Feeds" has a Status Quo-ish riff and some Dr.Feelgood vocal and riff aspects to it. "(She's Gonna) Do You In" is a Stonesy bluesy rocker with a glam rock drum intro, a blues harp burst and some Alice Cooper-isms in the vocals somewhere too. It even has a bit of prog-rock keyboards right near the end. "Kicks" finishes the album off with Bob ranting about not being able to buy drinks at sixteen in another New York Dolls influenced vibrant, lively rocker. As I said, this wasn't punk. It wasn't mainstream rock either. This certainly was not a bad album at all, it was adventurous and inventive, despite its many influences. Bizarrely, the most punky of the material is to be found on the "live 1975 demos" dating from 1975 that come as bonuses on this edition, particularly "Doin' It Right". They showed The Rats to be somewhat ahead of their time although none of that stuff appeared on this album. "My Blues Away" is totally Stones blues circa 1964 though.
Many people have had problems with the remastering on these 2005 remasters, saying they are too loud, too "bright", too tinny. I know what they mean, to an extent, there is a tinniness to it, in places, but they have managed to push up the bass too and give it some "oomph". From my memory my old vinyl copy of it was tinny anyway, back in 1978. It probably was recorded that way and always will be.
- November 01, 2018