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Sex, Age & Death
These are songs of grief, pain, anger, loss and disappointment
Colm O Hare, 11 Oct 2001
At times, listening to Bob Geldof’s first solo album in years can be a bit of a voyeuristic affair, like being a principle witness at one man’s cathartic breakdown and eventual recovery. As he acknowledged in his recent hotpress interview, these are songs of grief, pain, anger, loss and disappointment – entirely understandable given the highly publicised events of the past few years. That said, few could be prepared for the apparent venom he feels when he sings a line like, “You’re a lotta laughs ain’t you baby, it’s funny how it all turned out that way” on the opener ‘One For Me’. The depth of his anger (clearly aimed at his late wife Paula) is demonstrated even more forcefully on a line from the same song which sonically sounds like something from Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind album: “The teenage clothes and see-through sizes/The mutton dished up on the Sunday plate is now the lamb in ghostly guises”.
This pretty much sets the tone and atmosphere for the rest of the album, though the instrumental backdrop veers across a wide canvas, between the post-rock grooves of ‘The New Routine’ and the metallic riffs and trancy beats which punctuate ‘Scream In Vain’. ‘$6,000,000 Loser’ is not so much a song in the conventional sense, as a demented rockabilly workout, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Joe Strummer album. On ‘Mudslide’, stream of consciousness lyrics build to a climax of primal screaming over a glam rock riff. Again the lyrics point to someone in the throes of an emotional crises. “One day I’ll get it together and buy one of those electric blue fly killer things/Mount it on the wall over there and watch ‘em fry...”
There isn’t much light relief here but then that wasn’t the intention although the dreamy atmosphere and Twin Peaks textures on ‘Pale White Girls’ makes it one of the more melodically appealing and accessible tracks on the album. Some kind of redemption and closure is apparent on the final track ‘10.15’, which is essentially a tender love song to Geldof’s current partner Jeanne who is named in the lyric.
It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to listen to this record in its entirety more than once but it’s a brave and powerful collection of songs and, as Geldof has said, he made it for himself.