Why The Boomtown Rats Are Back With First Album In 36 Years

Boomtown Rats
Hamish Macdonald

Boomtown Rats

Listen to "Sweet Thing."

The Boomtown Rats are preparing to release their first new album in 36 years -- including the track "Sweet Thing," premiering exclusively below. But frontman Bob Geldof says the long gap was not because of a breakup.

"We never broke up. We paused for 36 years," the "We Are the World" and Live Aid organizer contends.

"There's just a sense that the music we had done and that attitude that produced the music was necessary again," says Geldof, who's released several solo albums during the interim. "It wasn't that difficult, really. The only thing I said was 'I'm not gonna do nostalgia.' This has to be about now, about today. There's nothing really for us to prove, but there still is something to say, and I'm sort of amazed and thrilled by that. Will anyone to be interested? I don't know. Does that stop you from making music? Not at all."

Formed during the mid-70s in Dublin and subsequently relocated to London, the Rats notched five Top 10 U.K. singles, hitting No. 1 with "Rat Trap" and "I Don't Like Mondays," the latter of which was also the group's biggest U.S. hit. The group's last album, In the Long Grass, came out during 1984. Briquette became a record producer and played in Geldof's solo band, while Roberts and Crowe we had their own group, the Velcro Flies, and worked in other pursuits both in and outside of music.

The catalyst for the reunion, according to Geldof, was in invitation to play at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2013. "That was sort of throwing down a gauntlet, really," Geldof recalls. "Had we been any good? Were we any good? Because you don't know when you were a kid; You were just doing it, every single day. You're aware you're selling a lot of records, but you don't know if you were any good or take that into account. So that was a chance for us to see what we had. And we killed it."

The Rats went on to tour the U.K. and subsequently played other festivals, all the while working towards Citizens of Boomtown. "What bands do is they write new stuff. That's the job, and that's what we did," Geldof says. "It's this specific noise that this specific group of individuals make. It needed these exact individuals who seem to make the racket of the now for me. You can't define that sound, but if you were to define it, it's in this album. That's what I heard when we started back up again.

"This is just pure attitude, not politics or anything like that. Attitude. That's all rock n' roll ever was. It's semaphore. It's code for 'Fuck off!' Y'know, 'don't step on my blue suede shoes -- don't fuck with me.' That's what we wanted to capture here, and what we did capture, again."

The Rats begin the U.K. tour March 14 in Zagreb, with 11 dates wrapping up May 2 in Newcastle. Geldof is not holding out much hope for bringing the show across the pond, however. "I'd love that, but I don't think we could get arrested in the States," he says. "I would love to play at the big festivals there, or places like the Beacon (Theatre in New York), but I don't think they'll have us. I don't want to do a club; That's pointless. You never make money, and it takes six years to go and do all the clubs in America. So it's a problem."