This week’s batch of new releases features an album 36 years in the making and a band that’s truly devoted to the label of classic pop…

Boomtown Rats

The Boomtown Rats – Citizens Of Boomtown

It’s unclear what persuaded Bob Geldof the world needs a new Boomtown Rats record 36 years since their last, not to mention a decade since his own How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell. Whatever the inspiration, he and the band’s three remaining members intend to make the most of the situation: coinciding with this seventh album is a book of Geldof’s lyrics, while a documentary’s on the way, plus a UK tour.

Despite having reached retirement age, then, the quartet have plenty of energy, even if, like Citizens Of Boomtown itself, it’s largely devoted to looking back. Certainly, their musical references are spliced together in brazen fashion. Trash Glam Baby finds Geldof evocatively recalling the 1970s while leaning heavily on Ziggy Stardust and ‘Heroes’-era Bowie, and Sweet Thing’s no less nostalgic, again nodding to Bowie while rewriting The Troggs’ Wild Thing in the spirit of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, adding hammered piano chords for good measure.

Rock ‘N Roll Yé Yé, meanwhile, glues together AC/DC and Joan Jett riffs before Geldof’s Bob Dylan vocal converts it into a Knocking On Heaven’s Door tribute. Surprisingly, there’s little sign of French “yé-yé”. That’s because, as Geldof states plainly of rock and roll, “You always did it for me”.

Nonetheless, programmed drums steer Monster Monkeys’ skeletal riffage towards a Madchester revival, and Get A Grip’s heavy sloganeering writhes around industrial beats. Theme song The Boomtown Rats, though better suited to opening shows than closing an album, is no less relentless.

Still, Passing Through is more contemplative, Geldof crooning over a poignant piano line towards a consolatory chorus, while on Here’s A Postcard his delivery is blithely paired with jangling guitars and doo-wop backing vocals. It’s perhaps best to overlook the locker room talk of the grungey, bluesy She Said No and the generally throwaway K.I.S.S., with its comedy rap, but they’re at least in keeping with the schizophrenic nature of an entertaining, and wholly unanticipated, comeback.

Cutting Crew – Ransomed Healed Restored Forgiven

Cutting Crew – Ransomed Healed Restored Forgiven

Cutting Crew – or what’s left of them, since only Nick Van Eede survives from the original line-up, and guitarist Gareth Moulton didn’t arrive till 2005 – follow 2015’s Add To Favourites by joining the long line of artists bolting on strings to their hits. With only two UK Top 40 tunes to their name, it appears, like many such collections,
a little unnecessarily extravagant, while the album’s title, taken from the hymn Praise My Soul, seems like a vain gesture, the words representing what Christ (allegedly) did for us, not what the man behind (I Just) Died in Your Arms managed with some superfluous brackets and a melodramatic chorus.

Still, that song’s sturdy enough to support both a wailing guitar solo and extended string-soaked outro while I’ve Been In Love Before is even better suited to such sentimental procedures. There’s more from their debut, too, with its title track, The Broadcast, distilled to just voice and orchestra and Any Colour’s harmonies more subtly fleshed out by violins. Oddly, however, it’s No Problem Child, from 2005’s Grinning Souls, which benefits most of all, provoking Van Eede’s most passionate performance.

The Fizz – Smoke & Mirrors

The Fizz – Smoke & Mirrors

Though it appears to cling to Brotherhood Of Man’s 1976 Eurovision victory as Britain’s proudest moment, The Fizz know their audience. 2017’s The F-Z Of Pop took them Top 30 for the first time since 1983, proving that there’s still a market for bands aspiring to ABBA’s classic pop.

They stick to this formula on their third album under their new identity, leading off with Winning Ways’ innocent, uplifting cheer and the disco-lit All We Ever Can Do, while More Than These Words is a good-humoured number with cheeky synth-brass which appears to salute Sgt Pepper.

Elsewhere, melodies are sticky, sentiments are evergreen – Storm, which owes a hefty debt to late 80s Fleetwood Mac, employs heavy breathing to underline its central metaphor – although they’re family-friendly to a fault. TOTP, an ode to – you guessed it – Top Of The Pops, even samples Mike Read before referencing Legs & Co. and inviting “young and old” to dance. But though From Here To Eternity becomes more stirring when one learns Jay Aston’s vocals were recorded the day that she was diagnosed with cancer, Reservation stretches analogies about freedom and plantations uncomfortably far: “Ball and chain/ All in your mind”? 

Wyndham Wallace

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