Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream is still vivid after 30 years.

Instead of a luxurious reissue to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a classic album, Virgin have left well alone. Not known for giving many fans what they want, they have, again, stuck true to form. Rather than celebrate a classic album, five records got a box set to themselves with added b-sides. But that was all. The best thing about this release was the band who recorded these LPs decided to tour them, 25 songs a night, five from each of the five records. Oh, so that’s why the box set was called 5×5. Simple Minds are a clever bunch.

Often known as stadium behemoths, Simple Minds are not always thought of in a positive light. But recent output, such as Black and White and Graffiti Soul, gave the band much needed resuscitation from the press. As their early Krautrock informed albums no longer carried shame, fans started coming out of their too cool for school hideaways. The Manics’ James Dean Bradfield never hid his love for Empires and Dance, even mining the artwork for The Holy Bible, but surprisingly Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie raves about Real To Real Cacophony. No-one says this about U2’s early work.

New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) is the prized album that celebrates 30 years this week. It is revered amongst fans as their best, most inspiring and complete work. It was recorded with the band experimenting with various drummers, a rookie producer and a record label eager for more success.

“Empires and Dance and Sons and Fascination were so crammed, the sound was so heavy, the way it feels before a storm breaks. When the storm is over, the air is clear and clean. That’s what New Gold Dream felt like,” stated singer Jim Kerr at the time.

The opener, Someone, Somewhere (In Summertime), invokes a late summer sunset far on the horizon, creating a warmth that continues for the whole record, defying the band’s previously cold, detached echo of Kraftwerk. Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel’s funky bass doesn’t tell the whole truth about the song, in fact it almost lies as it floats past. Then the mincing Promised You A Miracle skips in to your ears and puzzles the listener. A Top 20 hit in the spring of ’82, it put Simple Minds on the road out of the cool European clubs and artrock madness, and on to the bedroom walls of young girls.

Big Sleep creeps up the same path of Catherine Wheel, slowly building from an almost ballad like tune, then releasing a funky groove that was caged within the band, while Somebody Up There Likes You is an uplifting instrumental just waiting to burst out.

The strength, flow and texture of the remaining tracks on the album make it the best consecutive 23 minutes the band have ever put on record. As a song, New Gold Dream’s opening rhythm, smooth chords and fluent bass leads to Kerr’s latest Bowie impression, a trance-like state ensues encouraged by Mick MacNeil’s atmospheric synths. Recent live versions have taken the religious fervour through to an almost rave like bliss. The likeness to Station To Station really should have lead to David Robert Jones’s lawyers knocking on Jim’s door but even after thirty years it can’t quite be defined as an act of larceny.

Glittering Prize has great pop elements and is a reflection of Promised You A Miracle but with a far greater tenderness, another perfect example of how restrained the band seemed in the studio. Hearing these songs, for production better or worse, sound off the leash come the Once Upon A Time tour. This is not to suggest we lock away the Pete Walsh versions but to understand just how these great songs move from the studio to the arenas and stadiums with ease. It was after all a desire to capture the bands live sound that led to the 19 year old Walsh getting the gig.

Hunter and The Hunted’s bassline bubbles under a tense crescendo leading to Herbie Hancock’s keyboard solo, whose presence adds to Simple Minds’ musical entity. But the menace of the track captures perhaps the fear of the future which the band were looking to, with the increasing presence of Mel Gaynor’s drumming.

With The King Is White And In The Crowd there’s no rousing finale to the record, just rhythmic playing that gently fades out. The fluid bass playing of Derek Forbes underpins all of this record, filling out the lower end with smooth imagination. Yet, he just throbs through this closing track, and, if you’re listening carefully, there’s a little squall of Charlie’s guitar, probably more than we have heard all album.

For many, this was the last they saw of the band they knew, subtleties to be cashed in for grand gestures on huge stages. The krautrock influence being drained and the band injected with a more lumpen rock sound. But this touchstone album shouldn’t be overshadowed by future pomp and bombast.

It truly is a gloriously majestic album of warm electronica. In fact, the warmth of this record, almost its crux, is evidenced through its cover, purple and gold, lush and elaborate, striking and beautiful, the visual reflecting the aural, balancing beauty and fear, creating a near perfect whole.

4 Responses to “Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream is still vivid after 30 years.”
  1. Angharad Sanders says:

    I never knew all those songs were on the same album – probably because I was never controlling the cassette player………

  2. Fady says:

    Looking forward to listening to this album again actually. Someone, Somewhere (In Summertime) and Promised You A Miracle are two of my favourite songs of theirs. A shame that the reissues doesn’t include the many remixes of the singles that were released.

    • Virgin are notorious for offering little in the way of extras. The 2002 remasters were just the same tracks across all the lp’s re-released. The new 5×5 box set, which contains the first 5 albums, did include all the remixes and b-sides with the associated albums. By softening the blow for yet another re-release for fans it was very reasonably priced, not formally released in Australia but about 14GBP online. A cracking set of tunes that dispel the myth they were just a stadium rock act.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] My review of Simple Minds New Gold Dream can be read here. […]

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