Sunday, September 14, 2014

Classic Album Review: Boomtown Rats - The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979)

The Fine Art Of Surfacing is not an album that will feature on too many ‘Classic Album’ lists but it was a much loved one for yours truly growing up so it makes the cut according to the not particularly exact science of everythingsgonegreen …

It was the third album for Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats, following on from the band’s breakthrough release, A Tonic For The Troops, released a year or so earlier. Thanks to the chart success of the worldwide No.1 smash ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’, Fine Art also represented something of a commercial peak for the band.

Certainly some of the music found on the album owes rather more to the still saleable glam excesses of the mid-Seventies pop charts, than the hard-edged raw social commentary, spirit of ’77 and-all-that, influences of its two predecessors.

That was down to two things – the band’s natural evolutionary inclination toward the theatrical and the arty, and secondly, the excellent keyboard work of Johnnie Fingers, which gave the band its most identifiable point of difference from the multitude of other vogue bands of the day. His contribution to ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ is a prime example of that.

But when all else is said and done, there’s a little bit of everything on the album.

We’re instantly converted from the get go, courtesy of a couple of supremely crafted pop gems in the form of ‘Someone’s Looking At You’ and ‘Diamond Smiles’ – something close to the perfect opening double whammy.

We’re then treated to flurries of hard-out rocking in an assortment of guises; short bursts of pure energy, with flashbacks to the past – both distant and recent, and lashings of formula rock, be it of the more rudimentary and basic variety, or that which might proudly adorn brand new post-punk threads.
And while he’ll never be Weller, Strummer, or even Shelley in the lyric stakes, Geldof keeps things fresh, witty, and always interesting.

Other highlights include: ‘Wind Chill Factor (minus zero)’, ‘Having My Picture Taken’, ‘Nothing Happened Today’, and ‘When The Night Comes’.

Despite subsequent releases and a couple of Geldof solo efforts, The Fine Art of Surfacing is probably the last album where the Boomtown Rats were taken even remotely seriously … although Geldof himself, of course, would soon dwarf such frivolous achievement by embarking on a rather more demanding global crusade to feed the world …
ps … and further to that, I always felt Geldof never quite got the credit he deserved for his lead role in the Pink Floyd concept film ‘The Wall’, where he gave an astonishing performance for a man merely moonlighting as an “actor” at the time.

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