“The Fine Art Of Surfacing” by The Boomtown Rats - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1979Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Sticking with producer Robert John 'Mutt' Lange all the while, the third album in three years from the Irish sextet, delivered in June, 1979, represented their commercial and artistic zenith. It would come to be strongly identified by a triple serving of Top 3 hits in the UK, success which was repeated in many European territories. First of these, “I Don’t Like Mondays”, portrayed a mindless, murderous act by a 16-year-old dumb-ass in San Diego who had killed two adults and injured several children in an elementary school shooting in January '79, callously remarking “I don't like Mondays, this livens up the day”. Said Geldof: “I was doing a radio interview in Atlanta with [Johnnie] Fingers and there was a telex machine beside me. I read it as it came out. Not liking Mondays as a reason for doing somebody in is a bit strange. I was thinking about it on the way back to the hotel and I just said 'silicon chip inside her head had switched to overload'. I wrote that down. And the journalists interviewing her said, 'Tell me why?' It was such a senseless act. It was the perfect senseless act and this was the perfect senseless reason for doing it. So perhaps I wrote the perfect senseless song to illustrate it.” The dramatic, psuedo-classical production was as intense as it was heartbreaking, culminating in that darkly chilling final chord to fade. Outstanding work. Unfortunately for the Rats, the ascent on the Billboard Hot 100 came grinding to a halt when a radio ban kicked in.

Out in time for Christmas was the second single, “Diamond Smiles”, a true story about the suicide of a young London debutante. The painted smile of the desperately depressed socialite is eloquently retold: “She went up the stairs, Stood up on the vanity chair, Tied her lame belt around the chandelier, And went out kicking at the perfumed air.” How did they get away with it on Top of the Pops? Music wise, Cars and Spector motifs suggest an aim for American dollar (he'd been doing the circuit over there on a charm offensive), but this was not forthcoming. Best of the lot was the third single, “Someone’s Looking At You”, released in January, 1980, a gripping new wave rocker with a smart set of lyrics suggesting that our super-confident hero is, in fact, beset with paranoia of the Orwellian society variety (“There's a spy in the sky, There's a noise on the wire, There's a tap on the line”) as well as the personal (“I deserve to get kissed at least once or twice”). Bruce Springsteen would have proud of this one I reckon; it's not too often you get a potential stadium rocker with cool cred.

Best track outwith the singles is the very Sparks-like contribution from keyboard Johnny, his “Sleep (Fingers’ Lullaby)” inspired by insomnia: “If I take enough of these red things (red things), get some permanent sleep (blue things, blue things), what lullaby's would you sing (white things, white things) for me?” Ending the record is “When The Night Comes”, a piece which finalises the three album trilogy of “Joey's On The Street Again” (1977) and “Rat Trap” (1978). Neat flamenco guitar - there's more to them than meets the eye. The massive effort to connect with America was not rewarded: “I did, in my arrogance, assume was that because we had so many monster hits in Europe, America would just fall prostrate at my feet… [laughs] they didn’t give a fuck.” Gotta love that candid honesty!

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:22] 10.0.png The Boomtown Rats - Someone’s Looking At You (Bob Geldof) New Wave
A2 [03:49] 9.1.png The Boomtown Rats - Diamond Smiles (Bob Geldof) New Wave
A3 [04:35] 6.0.png The Boomtown Rats - Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero) (Bob Geldof) New Wave
A4 [03:18] 5.0.png The Boomtown Rats - Having My Picture Taken (Bob Geldof, Pete Briquette) New Wave
A5 [05:30] 6.7.png The Boomtown Rats - Sleep (Fingers’ Lullaby) (John Moylett) New Wave
B1 [04:16] 9.8.png The Boomtown Rats - I Don’t Like Mondays (Bob Geldof) Songwriter
B2 [03:18] 4.9.png The Boomtown Rats - Nothing Happened Today (Bob Geldof) New Wave
B3 [03:39] 5.0.png The Boomtown Rats - Keep It Up (Bob Geldof, Gerry Cott) New Wave
B4 [02:50] 4.5.png The Boomtown Rats - Nice ‘n’ Neat (Bob Geldof) New Wave
B5 [05:00] 5.6.png The Boomtown Rats - When The Night Comes (Bob Geldof) New Wave

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