Teenage junkie, basketball addict, and literary shooting star (he completed the justly revered Basketball Diaries when he was 16), Carroll transforms himself into a postpunk lead singer on his debut album. And a fairly suc... more »cessful transition it is. Crisp, rhythmic guitar lines set the stage for his tales of New York City lowlifes, junkies, and three rather salacious sisters. It's a bleak record and a hopeful one--a peculiar and peculiarly Catholic mix; at least, that's how Carroll accounts for it in the title track ("I'm a Catholic boy, redeemed through pain, not through joy)." The formula really comes together in the unforgettable "People Who Died," as Carroll salutes a litany of ODs, suicides, and other fatalities. If this isn't one of the '80s' greatest albums, it certainly has one of the decade's greatest songs. --Percy Keegan« less
Teenage junkie, basketball addict, and literary shooting star (he completed the justly revered Basketball Diaries when he was 16), Carroll transforms himself into a postpunk lead singer on his debut album. And a fairly successful transition it is. Crisp, rhythmic guitar lines set the stage for his tales of New York City lowlifes, junkies, and three rather salacious sisters. It's a bleak record and a hopeful one--a peculiar and peculiarly Catholic mix; at least, that's how Carroll accounts for it in the title track ("I'm a Catholic boy, redeemed through pain, not through joy)." The formula really comes together in the unforgettable "People Who Died," as Carroll salutes a litany of ODs, suicides, and other fatalities. If this isn't one of the '80s' greatest albums, it certainly has one of the decade's greatest songs. --Percy Keegan
"Jim Carroll delivers his finest work, out of three releases, here on Catholic Boy. Everything about this album is perfect: sharp songwriting, great lyrics, and playing that scorches. In a sense, Carroll has created an album that is direct, to the point and eloquenty captures the lives of the downtown NYC outsider; it's an album that Patti Smith should have recorded but didn't. Catholic Boy somehow is not mentioned in the pantheon of punk classics (due to the fact it was released in 79-80 not 1977)but it is deserving a greater merit."
A vibrant, rocking decent into Manhattan's underbelly
Alan Hutchins | Denver, CO United States | 07/12/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This disc is as difficult to classify as its main architect is. Is this a Punk disc? If so, then what's the keyboard guy from Blue Oyster Cult doing playing on a couple of the songs? Is it a straight early 80's Rock album? Not with scorching guitar sounds, unconventional vocals and brutally "street" New York subject matter like this. Is it some sort of hip-hop precurser? No way, although reporting on life in the seedy urban jungle, as this disc does constantly, later became a rap music hallmark. And this Jim Carroll guy--confessional author? bowery poet? former junkie? lead singer of a smokin' band? This disc gives an emphatic "all of the above" answer to these questions. The disc occupies a rare stand-alone subcategory in the Rock world that defies further pigeon-holing, and its intensity and drive make it one of the best things to ever crawl out of New York in the past 22+ years.Jim's singing is actually 80% Lou Reed-style speak-singing (mostly in tune with the music) , with about 20% of Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" era phrasing and tendency to change the pitch upward at the end of a phrase thrown in for good measure. The words matter to Jim: his voice is mixed up front, and he speak-sings clearly to make sure you get what he's written. He even repeats the entire lyrics of "Three Sisters" and "People Who Died" twice. The words are funny, thought-provoking, harrowing, surreal and sometimes disturbing. There are lots of strange vignettes taking place on the lower side of New York life. There are clever double meanings and quoteable rejoinders. There are no 'We're Gonna Rock Tonight' songs, no songs about cars, no 'I Want You, Baby' songs--the disc is nearly free of Rock cliches. Here's a witty example of his writing from the song "Three Sisters"---read this and think about whether he's describing a woman, or whether just maybe this 'Miranda' refers to the rights that the police are required to advise to suspects:
"Though I don't understand her/I love my sister,her name is Miranda/the boys from Uptown, they can't stand her/ the more she denies them, the more they demand her/ but she just wanna lay in bed all night, reading Raymond Chandler". The music is clearly Punk-influenced, but this isn't a total screaming thrash-fest, as American early 80's Punk had become. The two-guitars-bass-drums lineup are augmented at times by the afore-mentioned keyboards and even a sax on "City Drops Into the Night". "Day and Night" sounds positively mainstream with its female backing vocals, slow tempo and sythesizer wash, and almost seems out of place with the rest of the material--like maybe the record company wanted a song to promote as a single. The grittier sounds of the guitars prevail in most songs. The tempos are fast, the soloing miminal, and the production packs a solid whallop. "City Drops Into the Night" seems to be about twice as long as it needed to be to make its point, but other than this minor lull, the disc demands your attention and is hard driving right up the the final abrupt cutoff at the end of "Catholic Boy". The match with the lyrics/vocals is exceptionally good.This is an overlooked but highly recommended disc from the dawn of the 80's that is sure to provide you with riveting listening material for years to come. It's a must for Manhattan-ites and those planning to visit. It's also the undisputed pinnacle of the short (three albums total) career of the Jim Carroll Band. His 'best of' collection has eight of these ten songs-- that's a clear sign that this disc is really all you need."
Not background music
samco | 10/16/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On Catholic Boy, Jim Carroll uses his words well. It is hard for listeners to get his voice out of their heads. For those of you who are not familiar with his work, Catholic Boy is a great introduction. Jim Carroll's songs are biting narratives with th intellectual force of Lou Reed, and with as much rock hard soul as The Ramones. A great buy for anyone.
Don't listen to dev1
samco | 08/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Catholic Boy" is one of those inexplicable records were everything works perfectly. I don't think anyone on it really understands why. Otherwise they would have made more. Totally unique and extremely poetic. You must have a feeling for the New York underground art experience. Some how the amalgam of ingenious poetry works perfectly with the rather straight ahead rock. Not for everyone. A razor edge. I worked at Tower Records for a year and a half and listened to everything, Jazz, Classical, Rock. I have a real open mind. This is one of the few albums out of thousands I previewed that totally caught my attention and still has it 20 years later. Most popular music is junk."I Write Your Name" is not as strong, but still a worth while addition. Like I said, non of 'em knew why "Catholic Boy" came out perfect. They wisely stopped recording more after this one when they realized "Catholic Boy" was one of those inexplicable perfections that cannot be equaled.Give Jim credit for not overloading us with crap after these two albums like he could have."