I’ve never been one to shy away from the fact that my favourite Rats’ albums are those that focus on the New Wave guitar that built the band’s reputation….so the first three albums plus “Citizens of Boomtown” are always going to be up there for me. But bands must evolve and try new stuff and with “V Deep” we see the Boomtown Rats doing just that – evolving and doing it rather well.
The style here is entirely new – electronic with lots of brass - very much (it strikes me) of its time. The two sides of the original vinyl release had different names – “V Deep” and “VI Shallow”, which is apparently a reference to a style of love-making, that’s supposed to have quite magical results….anyway, moving on.
For every Rats' album I have a stand-out track – one that grabs me from the very first play. On V Deep, that track is Skin on Skin. In 1985 when the Rats were on the BBC’s Saturday Superstore promoting “In the Long Grass”, seventeen-year-old me got the chance to speak to Bob and Johnnie live over the phone. I asked how they chose which album tracks to release as singles and, impudent little shit that I was, asked why they’d released Charmed Lives instead of Skin on Skin? Bob replied that Skin on Skin was a bit rude, so I had my answer!!! I still think Charmed Lives was a strange choice for a single, but in the context of what was to happen in 1984 (long after the song had been written), I’ve come to look at it quite differently. The words of Charmed Lives are about the First World problems that pop-stars and celebrities have – how are they going to fill their day? How are they going to wear their hair? In many ways that all changed in 1984 with Band Aid. We then saw what real power musicians and celebrities have and the really valuable contributions they can make when they’re not writing, recording or touring. I think the current term is ‘influencer’.
Charmed Lives was the third single off the album and had been preceded by House on Fire and Never in a Million Years. When the Rats’ back-catalogue was released on CD in 2005, I remember reading a review in Q Magazine – Never in a Million Years was up there as one of the band’s standout tracks. Although I’d never seen that track in that way, I went back and listened to it and you know what? Q Magazine were right!!!
There are other tracks that stand out on this album. A Storm Breaks has less emphasis on the words – in fact an instrumental version was released on the double 7” version of Charmed Lives. The cool jazz-infused The Little Death also jumped out at me from the first play.
So no, V Deep isn’t a typical Boomtown Rats album. But what is ‘typical’ anyway??? Doesn’t mean I don’t love it!