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Salient. Newspaper of Victoria University of Wellington Students Association. Vol 41 No. 3. March 13 1978

It's only Rock'n' Roll — The Boomtown Rats the Boomtown Rats Mercury

It's only Rock'n' Roll

The Boomtown Rats the Boomtown Rats Mercury

So 'new wave' rock'n roll is over one year old. So what? We've been subjected to numerous bands alternating between the description of 'new wave' and 'punk'. We've heard the Ramones, the Pistols, the Stranglers, the Jam, the Clash etcetera. One year on and it all seems slightly tedious, yet it's Rock'n Roll, so it can't be all that bad, can it?

So one may wonder why bother listening to the Boomtown Rats? After all they they're just Another punk outfit, are they not?

The answer to that question is a determined No. They're six Irishmen who, like the Jam and the Flamin' Groovies, create a sound decidedly similar to the early sixties Rhythm'n Blues, though played with the ferocity of the late seventies (almost like Dr. Feelgood did around the time of Malpractice).

Comprising Johnnie Fingers (keyboards, vocals), Farry Roberts (guitars, vocals), Gerry Cott (guitars), Pete Briquette (bass guitar, vocals). Simon Crowe (drums, vocals) and Bob Geld of (lead vocals, harp), they are a band that know where they're going and how to get there, so to speak.

The Rats' opening cut is their debut single, "Lookin' After No. 1", and exemplifies comprehensibly their particular style of rock'n roll. An excellent workout in dynamics, "No. 1" has as much subtlety as Black Sabbath would have to an Alan Stivell audience.

The beat slows down for "Neon Heart", which is concerned with call-girls, illegitimates and various cretins with tendancies such as slashing one's wrists. Not exceedingly original, "Neon Heart" is at its best a filler.

On the other hand, "Joey's On The Street Again" presents a more musically conscious Rats conveying a story about a rock'n roll victim. To say that it is occasionally reminiscent of Steely Dan may seem extravagant, but the overall melody, tight arrangement and sax solo (courtesy of Albie Donnelly) all combine to produce such an impression.

"Never Bite The Hand That Feeds" returns the listener to the R & B side of the Rats' musical approach. The influence of the Feel goods becomes plainly evident as the rhythm section gathers momentum. The story line is constructed around a "little girl" and her inquisitive parents. The conclusion may seem cynical, but there may be a moral there for somebody.

Closing side one is the Rats' latest single release, "Mary of the Fourth Form"; the theme is as old as rock'n roll itself — young coquette and would-be paedophiliac school teacher. Lyrics are what one would expect with such a subject matter, but it's worth the listen as Crowe and Briquette move the song along with a pace equal to the early Feelgoods; the best in impulsive, pulsating rock'n roll.

"(She's Gonna) Do You In" opens side two and immediately one recalls the 60's R & B, early Stones and the Troggs' "Gonna Make You". The beat is insistant, the vocals sneering, the harmonics crazed, the guitars buzz; if you can't move to this track then you must be going through the latter phases of rigor mortis.

The accusation that the Rats sound remarkably like the stones is borne out in "Close As You'll Ever Be". As with "No 1", "Mary" and "Do You In", this cut stands out as exemplary rock'n roll, though here the tempo is calculated a la "Gimmie Shelter" and "Dancing With Mr. D".

"I Can Make It If You Can" is again Stones sounding, though more in the "Till The Next Goodbye" and "Coming Down Again". For all intents and purposes it is a ballad. So much for the Rats being 'punks'. The final cut is "Kicks", and the 'philosophy(?) of the Rats is reiterated : "At sixteen years I don't stand a chance. Is there no place left for me to hide."

No amount of hype can advertise the energy that the Rats possess (and sometimes fail to deliver) — only hearing them can do them justice. They're rock'n roll What more can be said?

Greg Cotmore