Bob Geldof

Sex, Age & Death

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There's no evidence here that political beatification has mellowed Bob Geldof. If anything, his message has grown more apocalyptic, even as his music broadens to a degree unprecedented in his own catalog. The title gives a pretty clear picture of what this is all about. Whether viciously dismembering some withered media icon on "One for Me" or desiccating a relationship addiction that borders on necrophilia in "Pale White Girls," Geldof maintains the highest pop standards of lyrical expression and musical setting. A punk energy, broken down at times to techno/tribal components or filtered through shimmering electronica, permeates each performance. The rhythm track to "Scream in Vain" deserves special mention, with its segues from a pumping house-style synth bass drum through various atmospheric moments and, for a moment, some Clash-like fist pumping. Geldof refers to other works -- a Dylan paraphrase, a sampled fragment from "Get Off of My Cloud" -- not to distract from any weaknesses in his vision, but to fit into its strengths. All this finesse serves a righteous, primal anger. Dramatic contrasts in dynamics, and a vocal that veers from beatnik poetry to a searing shout that somehow recalls both Prince and John Lennon, convey a bleak picture in "Mudslide," built on a metaphor of bugs being burned in an electric trap. This song, like everything else on this album, is about rage and resistance against those who succumb too easily to life's suffocations. Perhaps the essence of the album lies in the almost incoherent fury of "Inside Your Head," in which he throws subtlety against the wall and screams, "What the f**k's going on inside your head?" With its blunt scatology set against what sounds like a roomful of oblivious chowhounds in a café, Geldof goes eyeball to eyeball with his real enemy: all among us who nestle ourselves into the bosom of mendacity. Sex, Age & Death bashes at the door and demands attention; only fear keeps us from letting it in.

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