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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 15 March 2005
Given that Sir Bob Geldof is far better known these days as the instigator of Band Aid and the most outspoken member of Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, it's easy to forget that in the course of becoming one of the most important social commentators of today, he was one of the most innovative and influential musicians of yesterday. This compilation is an overdue but extremely welcome tribute to a songwriter and a band who helped fashion the musical landscape of the last 25 years.
Early Rats songs such as "Mary of the 4th Form" and "Looking After No. 1" clearly belong to the same punk-influenced soundscape as Irish contemporaries The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers. What makes them different is Geldof's gift as a lyricist and more particularly as a raconteur, much in the style of classic David Bowie. "Rat Trap", credited by the Guinness book of hit singles as Britain's first New Wave no. 1, is every bit as much a slice of 1970s social commentary as Bowie's "Life on Mars", and even surpasses it with its frenzied piano, sax and guitar riffs and its defiance of the conventional rules of melody. Geldof's pinnacle as a storyteller came with the mega-selling "I Don't Like Mondays", the chilling true story of a schoolgirl who took a gun to her classmates and teachers years before the spectre of Columbine; but equally gripping is the less well-known follow-up "Diamond Smiles", the bitterly ironic tale of a suicide in high society. Underpinning all these tales are compulsive, addictive melodies and brilliantly controlled instrumentation from the other Rats.
What is perhaps most striking about all these songs is how they became clear predecessors of the "credible" rock and indie music of the next 25 years. Songs such as "Joey's on the Street Again" and "When the Night Comes" were clear forerunners of the soulful Celtic rock of Deacon Blue, Big Country and U2, while "Diamond Smiles" and "I Don't Like Mondays" clearly laid the emotional groundwork to which The Smiths were to lay claim for much of the 1980s. Other tracks have echoes of future indie-rock legends such as James ("Drag Me Down") and The Killers ("Someone's Looking At You"), while "Mary of the 4th Form" would give most of today's garage rock acts a run for their money.
By the time Band Aid came around, Geldof was all too well aware that the Rats were no longer cutting-edge. But in today's musical climate, their work has never sounded so fresh or contemporary.
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