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City Boy - The Day the Earth Caught Fire CD (album) cover


City Boy


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3.78 | 44 ratings

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4 stars In the mid 70s, a series of British groups combined elements of classic prog, adding some heavy rock a la Zeppelin and some hints of glam (T. Rex, Gary Glitter and early Roxy Music). Some went on to massive fame (Queen, Bowie), so-so celebrity (Sweet) and no distinction whatsoever (City Boy). Wiki defines glam as "Visually it was a mesh of various styles, ranging from 1930s Hollywood glamour, through 1950s pin-up sex appeal, pre-war Cabaret theatrics, Victorian literary and symbolist styles, science fiction, to ancient and occult mysticism and mythology. City Boy are among those rare bands that had definite talent but only 2 albums hit any kind of renown, the "Dinner at the Ritz" and this one. Obviously, the title here implies a science fiction slant (a famous classic movie whose storyline is the following: panic has engulfed the world after the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously detonate nuclear devices and have caused the orbit of the Earth to alter, sending it hurtling towards the sun) and the songs are reflective of the hysterical eccentricities that were extremely newsworthy at the time. I purchased the vinyl back when it came out as I was intrigued by the then media reviews of this concept album and ever since I was always compelled to slide this one alongside Sheer Heart Attack and Desolation Boulevard, as there are some uncanny resemblances. Lol Mason's high pitched vocals akin to Freddie Mercury and Brian Connolly, Mike Slamer's loud guitar crunches in the Andy Scott/Brian May school of rock rifferama, steady bass and power drumming that certainly recall Taylor or Bonham from Roy Ward , who sings a bit too. The differences are mostly in the person of Max Thomas, a deft keyboardist who paints the ivory symphonics with aplomb. The title track is a marvelous slice of rock harmonics, a bruising, highly melodramatic opus that could easily have been penned by the Bohemian rhapsodists, with its massed choirs, insanely catchy chorus ("Run for your life"), moody synth backdrops, and cyclonic beats. A slippery axe solo only adds to the pop-corn drama. Wow! "It's Only the End of the World" is ballsier, almost basic heavy rock, drummer Ward taking over the mike and sounding like a rock 'n roller, aided by the lush massed backing vocals, guitars weaving in and out and doomsday ahead. Lots of fun, "sports car driving off a cliff" kind of a track! "Interrupted Melody" has an almost Springsteen-like flavour, a piano-driven exposure of the sleazy life of girls of the night, lustily teasing the unified choir vocals that parallel the brash guitar, a depressingly lurid story encased in yet a brilliant song. Slamer's solo is devastating, enough to make any May fan stand and applaud. "Modern Love Affair" is breezy, a typical brit rock song, a hint of pub cabaret and lots of rock and roll, a perfect foil for some vocal/guitar histrionics and a chorus that never fades from memory. "New York Times" has quite an intro, instrumental fracas that will wink at the Queen boys (Queens, New York, get it?), huge orchestrations that will recall George Martin's work with the Fab Four, again with that Cabaret feel, a sizzling axe solo and some dizzying dynamics. Drummer Ward really has nice pipes here, elevating this track to lofty heights. "Up in the Eighties" is another sweltering winner, swerving contrasts, a sense of "deja entendu"(look it up!), I swear I hear Dr John's "Are You in the right place?" . The pub was too hot to bear any more pain. "Machines" is where things get hot and heavy, a raunchy workout with crunching riffs, bruising bass and tectonic drum beats, Ward singing like a madman while bashing his kit, the squeaky synth backed chorus is like something from the Sparks, totally unexpected but deeply appreciated. The guitar solo sounds like Bill Nelson on steroids! The lyrics continue to astound by their doomsville frankness. Now of course, you have to wait to the finale, the whopping 12 minute+ "Ambition" suite in order to anoint this with duly stamped prog credentials and rightly so. This is one hell of a roller coaster, replete with 3 segments that clash, crash and smash as the planet goes down the tubes of its own destruction, a button pushed, humanity vaporized. An epitaph to political stupidity, at a time when the chance of nuclear obliteration was quite real, even possible (Too many near misses, from 1960 onward). The manic "Rev-On" section is hot and juicy, almost deliriously close to hard rock where it not for the swooping synths and clavinet. The singing here is primeval and endearing, Steve Broughton, Lol Mason and Ward all contributing to the vocal melee. This is a brilliant unknown gem that deserves high praise and way many more devoted fans, including the royals . 4.5 Urban punks
tszirmay | 4/5 |


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