The Guild writer David has reviewed the new Bob Geldof Album, How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell for AltSounds.com
Take a looky y’all.
Originally published on altsounds.com
It’s easy to spend your time Bob bashing. The first thoughts of Bob Geldof are inherently negative; sweary Irish scruff-bag with annoying daughters that tries to save the world with our “bloody” money, or simply, that “Africa” bloke. Musician, singer, and songwriter don’t enter the mind until the alarm goes off at the start of the week, and you start humming ‘I Don’t Like Mondays,’ and deservedly so. His musical output has been schizophrenic at best, with three albums in that past 18 years, and no noteworthy single since, ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas.’ Despite a 36 year music career, it’s not what he’s best known for.
Bob Geldof doesn’t need music, he has Bono to do it for him, and in the same way Bono talks about saving the world – Geldof actually does it. So we have to wonder what How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell hopes to achieve. His song writing credentials aren’t strong enough to boast the album title, which just sounds arrogant. Yet it’s this arrogance which is intrinsic to the album as it is a biography of himself, and he is arrogant. It’s a quality which has taken him from the childhood streets of Dun Laoghaire, to the court of presidents and royalty. While most musicians claim to be saving Rock n Roll, this man is saving continents.
Just as Geldof’s career can’t be pinned down to one role, How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell is erratic in influence and style. Opener ‘How I Role’ is Loving Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” parodied beyond the banal and desperately trying to be cinematic with Daniel Lanoisesque production. ‘Blowfish,’ contrastingly, is barraged with Tom Waits wailing with an Industrial rhythm and churning guitars. It’s a vent for Geldof to address his detractors yet lacks any aggression, and stomps along timidly. ‘She’s a Lover’ is metronomic driving music reminiscent of Chris Rea and blurs like white motorway lines. Never has there been a more middle of the road track – inoffensive and forgettable.
The biographical element comes to the fore with ‘To Live In Love,’ a heartfelt Parisian ballad to partner Jeanne Marine and the security a loving relationship has brought to Geldof. He declares; “To live in love, is all there is / Life without love, is meaningless…To live in love, is life defined.” Bold and brash in life, Geldof doesn’t hide behind metaphor, and is confident to present himself to scrutiny. Perked by love and romance we move into ‘Silly Pretty Thing’ which is pure pop joy. Enveloped in strings and saccharine tinged, summer has arrived and suddenly everything is rose tinted. It’s hard to imagine, “Come on, get up, get dressed another perfect day of spring is here” being proclaimed around chez Geldof, but it does show Geldof as a positive family man, excited about life.
Aside from the ravaged claw-hammer of ‘Systematic 6 Pack’ the rest of the album is a homage to whimsy 60’s folk and Americana. Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, gospel and Clapton all rear their heads as Geldof retrospectively heeds his shortcomings. The George Harrison Xeroxed ‘Here’s to You’ appears to summarise his life and current standing as a man who is flawed but if finally settled with who he is, and his role is this world. However, arrogance and self-indulgence closes the album: ‘Young and Sober’ is a decade by decade self-penned obituary; it cites 1985 through Live Aid and 1995 through the tragic marriage split with Paula Yates. It’s a truly awful ‘comedy’ Irish Jig spelling out the major points in his life, just in case we didn’t know already.
Individually, the 10 tracks of How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell can appear clichéd and directionless. Lyrically and musically it’s not great, and there isn’t an original idea anywhere, but this need to be listened to as an entity. It’s an album in the classic sense, even with a noticeable A and B side: The first 5 tracks introducing aspects of his current life, happy and confident, whereas side B comes to terms with his demons. Taken as a whole it’s a great piece of work, it’s a man parading himself, not for self-gain and promotion, but to let people know he’s not just that Africa bloke off the telly. Geldof has laid himself bare and it’s not all pretty but he really doesn’t care, and neither should you. It’s not going to change your mind about the man and you won’t become a fan, but at least he’s not Bono.
Video for Geldof’s Silly Pretty Thing