Many years ago I was in the habit of regular posting on a Doctor Who forum, but packed it in because it got too depressing with all but a minority of fans apparently suffering from a form of arrested development leaving them bitter, surly, and tending to fixate on the things of childhood to the point of Fascism. Weirder still was how self-important so many of them could get about shit which just wouldn't matter to anyone sane, necessitating the forum imposing draconian rules - no pun intended - regarding personal attacks of such rigour that somebody was actually banned for insulting Adolf Hitler; and I really wish I'd made that up. Unfortunately this only inspired the membership to find ever more devious means by which to troll their fellows, resulting in what might conceivably be the most concentrated region of passive-aggression on the entire internet. Anyway, to get to the point, I held my ground in the music section for a while, that being where the people I've bothered to stay in touch with tended to hang out; but even that got to be a bit too much in the end, as each week brought a whole new selection of extraordinarily dispiriting thread titles hinting at the ruthlessly conservative psychology of the majority of the membership. There was Sonia's Back!, and Oh My Gosh - it's Mika!, and the one which still gets me, Best Boomtown Rats Album? presumably complete with a poll.
This last one bothered me partially because it belongs so firmly to that part of the world in which people haven't yet realised that Alan Partridge was a parody, but partially because it's hard enough liking the Boomtown Rats as it is without a bunch of hopeless wankers stood behind you wearing clothes their mum bought for them, grinning and giving you the thumbs up to show that you're one of the gang. Just half an hour ago I happened upon a YouTube clip of unexpected praise for punk rock from numerous establishment popsters of the late seventies, and there's Cliff fucking Richard heaping praise on the Boomtown Rats. I'd actually forgotten how much I hated Cliff Richard.
The Boomtown Rats came along at just the right time, at least from the viewpoint of selling records to kids of my admittedly impressionable age group. They were a bit of a mess, like a gang of Irish Bash Street Kids, and they pulled faces on the telly; but there was nothing to which one's parents could legitimately object because they were never really a punk band, despite spiky hair and one of them dangerously wearing his jimjams on stage. They were actually more or less a Rolling Stones tribute act and as such could be enjoyed on the strength of their musicianship and finely crafted songs by old farts, or indeed anyone who'd never quite understood the point of the Damned. Listen close enough and you have to wonder if someone hadn't been listening to Queen, what with the call and response and those vocal harmonies.
I didn't have a telly between 1984 and about 1993, and nor did I share a house with anyone who did have a telly, so I missed most of the stuff which might have tainted my already conditional regard of Bob Geldof, meaning I'm still able to listen to Boomtown Rats albums without too much baggage getting in the way, beyond their having been treasured amongst certain Doctor Who fans who really wish it was still 1973, back when everything was better than it is now; which is probably why this one still sounds pretty fucking decent, at least to me.
Of course, it's nothing surprising, nothing you haven't heard elsewhere. The Boomtown Rats debut album is essentially a Rolling Stones tribute act at the height of its powers, the right selection of familiar rock 'n' roll hooks, and a singer vaguely impersonating Bob Dylan, but doing it all in such a way as to enable suspension of disbelief, or at least as to enable the suspension of my disbelief when I was fourteen and Dean Howe flogged me this because he'd discovered either Iron Maiden or AC/DC or something which sounded a bit less like Bruce Springsteen; and it still sounds good, even exciting on more pumped up numbers such as Kicks, Looking After Number One, and so on. The one with the hairbrush allergy may have given his kids stupid names and pissed on his chips more than once in recent years, but he once made an album so good as to prove impervious to subsequent associations; and let us also take into consideration that he presently annoys the living shit out of Jonty UKIP Lydon, which has to count for something.