Bob Geldof gives out advice on How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell
How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell (Mercury)
Live Aid? So what. For long-time fans, Bob Geldof is the guy who celebrated the Boomtown Rats’ first number one single, “Rat Trap”, by going on Top of the Pops and ripping a picture of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John to shreds. It might seem silly now, but for a nation of pre-adolescent boys, this was every bit as revolutionary as Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones calling Bill Grundy a dirty fucker.
But that’s Bob Geldof. The one-time Straight staffer has always tended to make an impression, even as his music has suffered in inverse proportion to the increasingly lucrative business of being, well, Bob Geldof. In fact, this is his first record in 10 years, if anyone’s counting, and it’s been more than twice as long since Sir Bob even brushed the charts over here with “This Is the World Calling”. That song was nice if you needed a soundtrack for your big, liberal group hug, but not much else (unless a low-budget Peter Gabriel is your bag).
But hey, the break has done him some good, and How to Compose”¦ is an agreeable mix ’n’ match of styles, from Daniel Lanois moodscapes (“How I Roll”) to ersatz CSNY (“Mary Says”) to Kills-style rocktronica (“Systematic 6-Pack (58 1/2)”). The album really takes off when it gets weird, whether it’s Tom Waits inexplicably crashing into Kraftwerk on “Blowfish”, or the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now” getting a roller-disco makeover on the great “Silly Pretty Thing”.
It all ends with a music-hall pastiche called “Here’s to You” delivered in a ludicrously broad Irish accent, in which Geldof recounts his public ups and downs, while treating famine and the end of his marriage as equivalent things. The effect depends on how you habitually react to an entity who thrives on getting right in your face. Critics will smack their lips, but there’s no denying that it’s lively. Now give him your fuckin’ money!