Today’s sonic delight is the first single from The Boomtown Rats‘ smash third album, “The Fine Art Of Surfacing.” “Diamond Smiles” was another hit single from the Irish New Wave sextet from that period when they owned the UK charts for a couple of years. After starting out as hard-edged R&B in a Dr. Feelgood mold, they quickly began to mutate into the quintessential New Wave band in parallel with the very similar moves being made by Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
Both bands were fronted by Irish singers whose stock in trade were their barbed tongues and featured hyper-talented keyboard players initially favoring mid-60s Farfisa sounds. Both groups were hugely eclectic and would move all over the stylistic map in their time. But The Rats managed to make just six albums before throwing in the towel in 1985. The last time I checked, Elvis is still plugging away.
“Diamond Smiles” is a socially scathing tale of a debutante suicide [memo to self – what a great band name] in the midst of a gathering of bright young things who couldn’t be bothered to notice the heroine’s plight. The point of view taken here reminds me of a mid-60s Rolling Stones lyrical P.O.V. but Geldof manages to reveal more empathy than Jagger would ever let himself show.
The production by Robert John “Mutt” Lange [who also did honors on the first three Rats albums] favors a relatively dry sound with compressed drums figuring heavily in the mix. Johnnie Fingers’ outro synth solo is a real delight. Once they moved beyond their R&B roots, the band released five outstanding albums that encompassed New Wave rock, pop, calypso, reggae, synth pop, Phil Spector ballads, Bowie pastiche and more. But the sum of the parts was greater than the whole. Solo Bob Geldof material has never captured my ear in the way that The Rats easily managed in their heyday. This single was from their high water mark sales period but artistically, they kept delivering and pushing boundaries right to the end.