Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Boomtown Rats - A Tonic for the Troops

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday.

This month marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of A Tonic for the Troops, the second album from the Irish new-wave rock band the Boomtown Rats. In 1978, it charted at number 112 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 25 in New Zealand, and number 8 in the UK (where it also went Platinum in sales).

The roster of the band included Bob Geldof (vocals and saxophone), Pete Briquette (bass and vocals), Gerry Cott (guitar), Simon Crowe (drums and vocals), Johnnie Fingers (keyboards and vocals), and Garry Roberts (guitar and vocals).

The British version and the US version of the album differed in track content as well as order. The later removed two tracks (tracks eight and nine from the UK listing) and substituted in two from the band’s UK debut The Boomtown Rats. Since the subsequent CD release, only available as an import, sticks to the UK content and order, I will review the album that way today.

Side one begins with “Like Clockwork” which describes a futuristic society where people are just emotionless automatons in the economic machine. As the second single from the album, it went to number 6 in the UK and number 5 in Ireland.

“Blind Date” brims with highly anxious, rocking energy.

Geldof supposed that if Hitler ever were to write a song it would be “(I Never Loved) Eva Braun”. This mocking rocker reminds me a bit of the 1964 hit “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las with the backing talk-back to the lead singer.

“Living in an Island” sardonically refers to people in Great Britain committing suicide.

Closing the first side, “Don’t Believe What You Read” shows a total mistrust in the media. How fitting, thirty five years later, is this song as today so many people feel the same way.

Side two stars with “She’s So Modern”; the album’s title comes from one of the lines in the lyrics. It was released as the first single, charting at number 12 in the UK and number 10 in Ireland. I really like the full-throttle tempo to this one; you can’t help but be pulled along as if caught in its rip-tide.

I like the guitar solos on “Me and Howard Hughes”.

“Can’t Stop” captures the nervous cravings of someone caught up in addiction.

“(Watch Out For) the Normal People” implies the everyone has secrets hidden in their closet, despite their average exterior demeanor.

“Rat Trap” was the third and final single from the album. It held the number 1 spot on the UK charts for two weeks after knocking off “Summer Nights“ from the Grease soundtrack. It also charted at number 94 in Australia and number 2 in Ireland. The lyrics of this rocking ballad tell of a boy named Billy who feels his trapped in his hometown.

My first exposure to the Boomtown Rats came from an episode of SCTV in the early 80’s, when they came on and performed as musical guests during some skit. Admittedly, none of the tracks from A Tonic for the Troops are in my music library at the present time, but after one listen a number of them are marked for future addition. I definitely enjoy the band’s sound and lyrical message.

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