Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Boomtown Rats

  • The Boomtown Rats [Mercury, 1978] B+
  • A Tonic for the Troops [Columbia, 1979] B+
  • The Fine Art of Surfacing [Columbia, 1979] B-
  • Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1987] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Boomtown Rats [Mercury, 1978]
As the clash of punk guitars battled the swelling Springsteen-cum-Lizzy pseudoclimaxes, I began to suspect a fix, especially since record-bizzers have been heard to murmur fondly about the "musical" skill of these up-and-coming Irish nasties. But throughout a first side that often shifts mood but never quits, this is the real stuff, banging home the survival value of a brain unclogged by useless feelings. Unfortunately, side two bogs down in evocations of misogyny, boredom, and the plight of the young, all surrounding an apparent throwaway called "Close as You'll Ever Be" that ought to be a single. B+

A Tonic for the Troops [Columbia, 1979]
Satisfied owners of the group's Mercury debut might spring for the import (on Ensign), since this repeats two of the better tunes from that new wave no-sale. And seekers after straight-ahead cacophony might look around for the Mercury. But though this does turn rather campy at times--Bob Geldof's cheerfully narsty opportunism has lost body and focus--it will certainly do. I'll take a good calculating song about Adolf Hitler over an ordinary calculating song about the perils of romance any day, and if you're heading your music toward the rock mainstream, wit and flash don't hurt. B+

The Fine Art of Surfacing [Columbia, 1979]
Bob Geldof has a journalist's gift--he'd make a terrific topical songwriter if only he believed in something. Instead, he's taken to dramatizing the usual alienation from the usual inside. Too bad. B-

Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1987]
A decade ago, Bob Geldof had a bright idea: he pretended to be a punk. Since then he's thought mostly about shouldering his world-historical mission, and though that hasn't precluded more bright ideas, none of them has involved his music. B-