Modern Minds

Simple Minds (Black Background).jpgSimple Minds have blown down some cobwebbed tunes, taken them to the top of the highest peaks in Scotland and come back with a blast of the freshest air.

As an album, Big Music is thick with dance floor rhythms and generous keyboards opposite hard guitar, reminiscent of their earlier work.

The pre-release concerns of five years in the making, numerous producers, covers and revamped versions, is that maybe Simple Minds had finally trundled to a halt after belting out their back catalogue for the past few years, despite gaining ground from the previous two releases.

Yet, this variety and patience gave the band great impetus. In working with Iain Cook, from Chvrches, and older producers, Andy Wright, Steve Hillage – from 1981 Sons/Sister long players – and Steve Osbourne, Simple Minds used everything in their reach to create something which represents their identity whilst still looking forward, as they arrive at another critical point in their career.

With well documented love from the Manics and Bobby Gillespie, plus few other musos hitching a lift, it seems Simple Minds’ rehabilitation was already well underway. Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill had to prove this wasn’t nostalgia or good timing.

The almost spellbinding opening of Blindfolded and Midnight Walking indicates how far the band wish to dream. In a seismic shift, both lean towards the club rather than the stadium.

Lead off single Honest Town’s haunting melody looks back at Someone, Somewhere (In Summertime) with crisp modernity offered by co-writer Cook, one of the young generation declaring Simple Minds as a crucial inspiration.

Inviting outside songwriters doesn’t always work well with the chemistry of a songwriting axis as aged as Kerr/Burchill’s, yet Cook isn’t overawed. Some ground was conceded and understanding on both sides allowed this partnership to grow. He even tempts Kerr into holding back his vocal.

Warming after its early dark electro chill, the album emerges shimmering in the sun, with synths from New Gold Dream spliced with Sparkle thunder, irresistible hooks and slow-burning tones.

SM stairs WPAmongst all the synths and programming, Burchill’s guitar hasn’t been excluded, the effects and textures are all present and correct. The solos are infrequent but the impact is staggering, the jagged riffs on the title track shakes you to the core with a wall of electro-rock.

The critical moment comes in the form of a cover which was inspired by one of their original compositions, which the band first tackled five years ago, then revamped in 2014. Oh, poor Jim and Charlie must be running out of ideas. Well, this time they’ve nailed it.

Let The Day Begin gives the current Simple Minds an electro energy fit for stadiums and arenas pointing to the very best of their stadium sized canon. And in doing so, they give Waterfont a natural successor of equal grandeur; pumping bass, huge chorus vocal and even a hint of bagpipes for extra Scots appeal.

The re-imagined Blood Diamonds adds further gentleness with Kerr’s strong yet sensitive vocal amongst Simple Minds’ familiar electro romanticism. It’s the closest to a missing ballad on an LP which is a propulsive listen, settling into a Sons era rhythm for Kill or Cure, with Sarah Brown’s backing wails a highlight.

A decade of continuing improvement culminates with the hypnotic thrum of Spirited Away, this restrained melancholic, delicate tune becomes rich and uplifting.

Big Music WPThere’s a strange dose of sorrow being cajoled by an energetic spirit, which allied with the bluster filling your ears over 12 tracks, has, at first, created a strenuous listen. Left to settle, there’s vintage Simple Minds aiming to be contemporary and progressive, while offering a full reward of subtleties which tip toe out from between the layers with repeated airings as songs find their inner joy.

With the recent U2 PR faux pas, old comparisons are less valid than before. Simple Minds have recorded a landscape of sounds with their customary themes yet retain a vision of the future. Kerr’s labeled this album the third in a triptych, yet Big Music is such a step from 2009’s Graffiti Soul with its experimentalism and electronic foothold, Simple Minds stock is rising far beyond their pals, as they negotiate rock music’s modern domain with a stylish swagger.

6 Responses to “Modern Minds”
  1. Larelle says:

    Reblogged this on Antipodean – The Right Side Up and commented:
    Well said…

  2. Carol Rivers says:

    Love this album… Vintage sounds …
    All the things I love about
    Simple minds are in this album ..
    Perfect !!!!!!
    Well done guys !!!!! Can’t wait for the tour :))

  3. paul upton says:

    Best Album for a while & the review is spot on. If they re-work all the old songs with the same synth vibe & the tracks have all the same BPM there will be a lot of old tired fans at their gigs (me included) Great review, Great Album!!

  4. Ingrid van der Linden says:

    I love your new album. Great songs. Well done. Can’t wait to see you next year november in de Heiniken Music Hall ♡♡

  5. Casie Lane says:

    Kill or Cure is my pic! Thanks for sharing this great review.

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