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A Tonic for the Troops

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Album Review

Though less than a year separated the Boomtown Rats' second album from their debut, the advances that the band had made remain staggering. Where their energies were once directed straight at the white-hot heart of punk, A Tonic for the Troops revealed a daring, even experimental pop act — one that might have worn the now-fashionable skinny ties on-stage, but whose disdain for the rest of the year's trends and obsessions was palpable. Lyrically, Bob Geldof was now streaking ahead of all the competition, while the frenetic "Like Clockwork" offered up a still-staggering collision between Kraftwerk and the Sex Pistols, a union that was as farsighted in its own way as any punk-reggae hybrid of the day. Elsewhere, the faintly Clash-like "Blind Date" and the Mach II mayhem of "She's So Modern" retained the group's new wave sensibilities, while the B-side "Do the Rat" (one of the 2005 remaster's four bonus tracks) remains one of the greatest punk parodies ever. It was the album's closing track, however, that penned the Boomtown Rats' future. A "Bohemian Rhapsody" for the blank generation, "Rat Trap" spun out of Geldof's already documented fascination with Jailbreak-era Thin Lizzy and the Bruce Springsteen of "Jungleland" to deliver a devastating accurate portrait of teenage wildlife circa 1978 — and grant the Boomtown Rats their first chart-topping single. Of the bonus tracks, two B-sides are joined by a previously unissued (and vastly superior) John Peel session take of the first album's "Neon Heart" and a live reprise of "Rat Trap." They're a nice addition to the album, but the studio "Rat Trap" has already climaxed the collection. Anything else is simply icing.


Formed: 1975 in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ire

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s

The Boomtown Rats were an Irish rock band that scored a series of British hits between 1977 and 1980, and were led by singer Bob Geldof, who organized the Ethiopian relief efforts Band Aid and Live Aid. The Rats were formed in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin, Ireland, in 1975 by Geldof (born Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof, October 5, 1954, Dun Laoghaire, Ireland), a former journalist; Johnnie Fingers (keyboards); Gerry Cott (guitar); Garry Roberts (guitar); Pete Briquette (bass); and Simon Crowe (drums)....
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A Tonic for the Troops, The Boomtown Rats
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