In mid-1986, after making enormous efforts on behalf of others, ex-Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof took a few steps in his own behalf, writing an autobiography (Is That It?) and signing a solo record deal. Deep in the Heart of Nowhere bears the onerous marks of Rupert Hine’s tritely commercial overproduction, but contains both swell tunes and true wretchedness. Returning various favors, the album’s cast includes Dave Stewart, Annie Lennox, Midge Ure, Brian Setzer, Eric Clapton and Alison Moyet.
With Hine again producing and ex-Rat Pete Briquette on bass, Geldof adopted a jolly and appealing neo-folk approach for The Vegetarians of Love, a casual and light, mostly acoustic, album that gains a mild Irish accent from violin, accordion and pennywhistle. But while the sensitively played music sounds lighthearted, Bob hasn’t changed his outspoken and pointed lyrical ways. After ironically listing all the things he doesn’t care about in “The Great Song of Indifference,” Geldof spends the rest of the album airing his philosophical and emotional angst. “I’m thinking big things,” he sings, waxing existential in “Thinking Voyager 2 Type Things,” “I’m thinking about mortality/I’m thinking it’s a cheap price that we pay for existence.”
Working with most of the Vegetarians crew (but joined by World Party’s Karl Wallinger), The Happy Club finds him enjoying the rustic surroundings even more — for the first few minutes. The album has an ebullience rarely heard in his work (“Room 19” makes teasing musical reference to the Monkees, and the stomping “Yeah, Definitely” pumps old soul into a delightfully Dylanesque vocal), but Geldof is one Earthling who can never escape gravity. The brutal social critique of “Attitude Chicken” and the angry “Song of the Emergent Nationalist” are only warm-ups for the gorgeous, nostalgic spoken reminiscence “The House at the Top of the World,” the religious accusation of “Too Late God” and the changing European politics of “Roads of Germany.” A thoughtful, engaging album of genuine personal conviction.