5X5 - Simple Minds Album Review
Jim Kerr became a significant player in the world of mid-'80s pin-ups, but on his way there he experienced a colourful and varied musical journey. Starting off as Johnny and the Self-Abusers was never going to earn you props with radio-programmers and any sane person, thus Simple Minds (only slightly more PC) was chosen as a moniker. Arista, a then-subsidiary of the RCA corporation, were more-often associated with soul and pop artists, not tetchy, spikey upstarts from Scotland, thus they were marketed on Zoom instead. "5X5" features all their output from that era, plus two and a half albums from the more lucrative Virgin period.
Their first three albums are as far-removed from their stadium-filling rock-bluster and Celtic lighter-waving pretentions of later years, as you could possibly get. "Life In A Day" borrows many Bowie-isms, Magazine-isms and other new-wave isms that renders much of the album as derivative, but still rewarding. The title-track and "Someone" are not far-removed from The Skids' most melodic works, while the single "Chelsea Girl", a homage of sorts to Nico and the Velvet Underground, is a myriad of decadence and kitsch - the rest serves as an intro and not a lot more, despite John Leckie's sprightly production.
The acclaimed producer worked on Simple Minds' next two albums, the sophomore and occasionally clumsy "Real to Real Cacophony" and the majestic Euro-disco flavoured "Empires and Dance", arguably their first and finest 'proper' collection. "Real to Real" had its moments though, such as "Premonition" and "Changeling". Side two from "Premonition" onwards, represents the more grown-up side to Kerr's charges, while the first half of the album is an odd blend of fragmented paranoia and a continuation of where the first album left off. It gets weirder - "Veldt" sounds like an outtake to a disturbing gore-flick and "Naked Eye" sputters and flutters with casual and experimental abandon. It's very much an album of two halves, although promising nonetheless.
Third album "Empires and Dance" is as close to perfect as you can get and represents a time in music when bands were more obsessed with Northern Europe than the USA. That all changed after Springsteen bullied our ears with "Born in the USA" - beforehand, Simple Minds unleashed the first serious statement of European intent. From the jagged whirlwind proto-disco of "I Travel", the motorik funk of "This Fear of Gods" and the eerie travelogue of "Constantinople Line", the original vinyl copies featured unsettling studio noises and hiss, something that's been lost on subsequent cleaner CD transfers, although this is about the best version so far.
Their induction with Virgin continued the trend of lacklustre sales but, "Love Song" and "The American", the two key singles from the Steve Hillage-produced "Sons and Fascination"/"Sister Feelings Call", exposed a clubbier hubris that resulted in the ubiquitous extended 12" version and inclusion on dance compilations of later years. Of the two sibling albums, "Sons" is the most-straightforward, while "Sister" gathers a few references from "Empires" and "Cacophony" and rejigs them into mildly-aggressive anthems. "Theme For Great Cities" is utterly spell-binding and has found its way onto many a dance or rave hit during the '90s.
To include a song called "Promised You a Miracle" on your next album, was nothing short of irony. Far from being yet another casualty of bored major-labels, Virgin's persistence paid off and the band were rewarded with a hit single or three, plus "New Gold Dream", the sparkling new album produced with Peter Walsh. Old fans were perplexed, new fans joined in droves and the album set up Messrs Kerr, Burchill, Forbes et al with a pension-fund, culminating with "Waterfront", "Don't You Forget About Me" and "Belfast Child", surely their biggest travesty.
Extra tracks, present on all 6 discs, are all previously released with notable and welcome inclusions such as "New Warm Skin" (the original flip of "I Travel"), "Kaleidoscope" (a rare flexi out-take) and the ultra-funky extended version of "Sweat In Bullet". In contrast, it's disappointing not to see a few b-sides from the "New Gold Dream" period, such as the theme version of "Seeing Out The Angel" or the BBC session mix of "King Is White and in the Crowd", a far superior take than the flat album mix.
Overall, these remain the most essential albums of Simple Minds' career, with perhaps only the Steve Lillywhite thunder of "Sparkle in the Rain" ("New Gold Dream's follow-up) also worthy of a revisit sometime soon. And for such an important band, the lack of sleevenotes is shameful.
- Fri 21st Jun 2013 Newmarket Nights, Simple MindsNewmarket Racecourse (Newmarket)Buy Tickets
- Wed 27th Nov 2013 Simple Minds, UltravoxThe Hydro (Glasgow)Buy Tickets
- Thu 28th Nov 2013 Simple Minds, UltravoxManchester Arena [formerly MEN Arena] (Manchester)Buy Tickets
- Fri 29th Nov 2013 Simple Minds, UltravoxNational Indoor Arena [NIA] (Birmingham)Buy Tickets
- Sat 30th Nov 2013 Simple Minds, UltravoxThe O2 Arena (Greenwich)Buy Tickets
You may also be interested in
- Wed 22nd May 2013 to Fri 31st May 2013 Terry ReidBuy Tickets
- Sat 25th May 2013 Nik KershawThe Cellars - Eastney (Southsea)Buy Tickets
- Sat 25th May 2013 to Sun 2nd Jun 2013 Jane SiberryBuy Tickets
- Sun 26th May 2013 Happy Mondays, 808 StateBrighton Centre (Brighton)Buy Tickets
- Sun 26th May 2013 The Orb, KakatsitsiThe Blind Tiger Club (Brighton)Buy Tickets
- Thu 30th May 2013 PVTHoxton Square Bar and Kitchen (Shoreditch)Buy Tickets
- Fri 31st May 2013 to Sat 16th Nov 2013 Simple MindedBuy Tickets
- Sun 2nd Jun 2013 Big Country, Dave McPhersonThe Forum (Kentish Town)Buy Tickets
- Thu 6th Jun 2013 to Sat 15th Jun 2013 Todd RundgrenBuy Tickets
- Sat 8th Jun 2013 Let's Rock Bristol 2013, Billy Ocean, Howard Jones, ABC, Go ...Blaise Castle Estate (Bristol)Buy Tickets
- Sat 8th Jun 2013 The Playground Festival 2013, Gary Numan, Squarepusher, Derr...O2 Academy (Brixton)Buy Tickets
- Wed 12th Jun 2013 Jon HopkinsVillage Underground/ The Arch (Shoreditch)Buy Tickets
- Thu 13th Jun 2013 Forestry Commission Live Music 2013, JamesThetford Forest (Suffolk)Buy Tickets
- Thu 13th Jun 2013 and Wed 24th Jul 2013 TravisBuy Tickets
- Sat 15th Jun 2013 Sónar Festival 2013, Pet Shop Boys, Paul Kalkbrenner,...Sonar Venues (Barcelona)Buy Tickets
- Tue 18th Jun 2013 and Thu 20th Jun 2013 Pet Shop BoysBuy Tickets
- Fri 21st Jun 2013 Peter Hook, 808 State, Mike Pickering, Graeme Park, Danny Ra...Coronet Theatre (London)Buy Tickets
- Sat 22nd Jun 2013 The Killers, The Gaslight Anthem, JamesWembley Stadium (Wembley)Buy Tickets
- Sat 22nd Jun 2013 ABC, Marc Almond, Paul Young, Rick AstleyHaydock Park Racecourse (Merseyside)Buy Tickets
- Mon 24th Jun 2013 Bomb the Bass, The OrbHoxton Square Bar and Kitchen (Shoreditch)Buy Tickets
- Thu 27th Jun 2013 System 7Mr Kyps (Poole)Buy Tickets
- Thu 27th Jun 2013 and Fri 28th Jun 2013 The OrbBuy Tickets
- Fri 28th Jun 2013 Glastonbury 2013, Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal, The Vaccine...Worthy Farm (Somerset)Buy Tickets
- Sat 29th Jun 2013 Glastonbury 2013, The Rolling Stones, Primal Scream, Hurts, ...Worthy Farm (Somerset)Buy Tickets
- Mon 1st Jul 2013 Belle and SebastianThe Ironworks (Inverness)Buy Tickets
- Fri 5th Jul 2013 Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2013Glynde Place (Sussex)Buy Tickets
- Sat 6th Jul 2013 Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2013, Bryan Ferry, Chic, Nile Rod...Glynde Place (Lewes)Buy Tickets
- Sat 6th Jul 2013 Barclaycard British Summer Time in Hyde Park 2013, The Rolli...Hyde Park (Knightsbridge)Buy Tickets
- Sun 7th Jul 2013 Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2013, Jools Holland and his Rhyth...Glynde Place (Lewes)Buy Tickets
- Sat 13th Jul 2013 Barclaycard British Summer Time in Hyde Park 2013, The Rolli...Hyde Park (Knightsbridge)Buy Tickets
- Wed 17th Jul 2013 to Thu 25th Jul 2013 Momentous Musicals, Gareth GatesBuy Tickets