Who exactly is Bob Geldof? Everyone has of course heard of the enigmatic figure and I’m sure there would be many answers to this question. Some would say activist, humanitarian, media mogul and one time singer and musician. People would be forgiven for putting Geldof as a singer and musician in the past tense given that his last solo album was released in 2001! Many may not even associate Geldof as a solo artist as his most prolific times in music was when he was lead singer with the Boomtown Rats. However the newly released album, How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell is indeed Geldof’s fifth solo album. Geldof’s own explanation for the gap between releasing albums is that he doesn’t feel the need to constantly write music especially with his other commitments in life.
Originally due to be released last October Geldof put back the release date until this year due to the unfortunate deaths of his father and his sister. The albums intentional name was to be 58 1/2 which was the age Geldof was at the time of writing. On seeing and reading a book with the title “How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell” by Leslie Sheppard and his feelings that he would love to know how to do that and the fact he has firm beliefs this album won’t sell he decided to use this as the album name and underneath the title add b. geldof 58 1’2.
While the Boomtown Rats albums could easily be distinguished as punk albums it is not so easy to classify Geldof’s solo work. He is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and is known for saying exactly how he feels. His solo music touches a wide range of genres and can vary from very upbeat to slow and mellow. This is characterised in his solo work with his first album Deep in the Heart of Nowhere released after Live Aid showing someone suffering from anti-climax and wondering what to do next. The subsequent albums, The Happy Club and Vegetarians of Love show someone in a happier place. His forth solo album, Sex Age and Death was written after the breakup of his marriage and untimely death of his ex-wife Paula Yates and is full of dark themes of someone struggling through life. Personally I never took to this album as I found it too dark and depressing for my liking.
However the newly released album is written and released after what Geldof describes as his happiest decade and where he is finally content with his lot in life declaring that the woman in his life Jeanne Marine is the love of his life. It is an album of contrasts with a mixture of deep emotional songs like To Live in Love and Blow and then playful songs such as the first single Silly Pretty Thing and the hidden track Young and Sober.
The album opens with the Springsteenesque sounding How I Roll. It starts off acknowledging the hard times we live in but sees Geldof himself happier than he has ever being. While there are better songs to come on the album it is a good opener and paves the way for what is in my opinion one of the most bizarre songs on the album.
Though there is a good tune and musicianship on Blowfish it is seriously over produced with Geldof’s vocals being unrecognisable and it has the weirdest lyrics of the entire album which seems to me to be about gluttony and disgust at oneself at over doing it. While the song isn’t terrible by any means I just can’t take to it as a “Geldof” song when it doesn’t sound like him singing it! However it is a structurally sound song and I can hear hints of John Lennon in it.
This is followed by a She’s a Lover, a song where thankfully we return to knowing it is actually Geldof singing. It is about the cycle of love and includes the sublime lyrics “I loved her like the early leaves of spring, that weigh the branches of those waking trees, The best of us is love she’d say, the rest of us is dust and decay”