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I've been a big fan of Simple Minds since the age 14 back in 1992. They had just released their Greatest Hits compilation as all bands do at some point in their career and I found myself listening to it in Our Price (remember them?!) one Saturday afternoon. I was fascinated and after buying a copy was hooked, I tracked down all their albums and taped everything about them on the radio and TV, my parents were somewhat perplexed by my sudden obsession seeing as just weeks before I had gone mad over Take That! I was being a typical teenage I guess.
17 years on and whilst still a fan of Simple Minds and their work my obsession has faded somewhat. Their last effort in 2005 failed to set me or the world on fire and did little to increase their profile and I daresay it their fan base. My partner is also a huge fan and in fact it's down to our shared love of music that we actually met, of course we go to concerts together and check out their activities online and chat to other fans around the world. It's wonderful to have someone to share all this with as most of my friends and colleagues, plus family think that the band split up years ago if they've heard of them at all. It does get a little embarassing at times but their mostly wonderful music makes it all worth it.
When I heard towards the end of last year that SM would be releasing another new studio album this summer I was quietly thrilled but on the surface a little nervous, their last offering was pretty crap by anyone's standards and I did wonder if this would be any better, they're getting on a bit these days and you have to wonder if they still have the energy to produce good music like they used to?
I was lucky enough to hear a preview of the album, my partner was invited by their record company to a preview play of the album and bought home a sampler. It contained only 30 second snippets of half the proposed tracks but was enough to interest me and make me think this could be worth a shot after all.
The album proper was released at the end of May and despite my partner buying a copy immediately I didn't listen to it all the way through for a good couple of weeks. When I finally did one night whilst my partner was away I was very pleasantly surprised.
Track listing -
1) Moscow Underground
This is a good opening track and is pleasant enough though it doesn't really seem to go anywhere, it's stay steady the whole way through and leaves me wanting more by just fizzling out towards the end. It puts me in mind of early U2 work from the 80s before they found their feet and hit the big time.
2) Rockets - the first single to be released
This track is a bit more lively though I don't think it was right for a single. It's not punchy enough and despite promising much it again fizzles out towards the end. Mind you it's not bad enough that I can't listen to it.
3) Stars Will Lead the Way
This is where things get more interesting, this track is easier to listen to with lyrics that are coherent and that actually make sense which is rarely the case with Simple Minds. The track is very catchy with some excellent guitar work though also has some odd sounding backing vocals, it sounds to me as if someone during production got carried away with the vocoder at times.
4) Light Travels
This is my favourite track on the album, I loved this from the moment I first heard it. It begins simply with a deep bassy backdrop and simple, quiet lyrics then gradually builds as the chorus grows closer with guitars and drums joining in. Jim Kerr has a fantastic voice on this track, powerful yet restrained. He does at times tend to over sing and get carried away but with this song he has resisted the urge and the song really benefits.
5) Kiss and Fly
Another restrained track, yet it's powerful at the same time if that makes sense.
6) Graffiti Soul
Another good track, there's nothing of note to say about it really though
7) Blood Type O
This has some interesting keyboard work on it, I don't like the vocals however, a special effect has put on them for most of the track which isn't necessary.
8) This is It
This is my second favourite track, it has a funky vibe to it and restrained vocals again which let the music shine through.
9) Shadows and Light (bonus track)
This is a strange one and doesn't seem as if it fits in with the rest of the album. It has a lighter and more poppy feel than the rest of the tracks and a few moments of trippy, old school dance moments thrown in. I'm unsure about it and will probably need a while to get used to this one.
I would rate this album as good and decent return to form, it continues to grow on me the more I listen to it and no doubt will sound wonderful live when the band take it on the road this summer.
I'm impressed with the vocals on this album too, in the past they have been difficult to listen to but this time around some restraint has been found and the realisation that you need to shout to get your message across.
With the massive resurgence of 80s/retro punk chic-it was only a matter of time before Simple Minds jumped on the bandwagon and released another album. And who can blame them for it? This genre of music has recently become highly topical and relevant to a new wave of fans, it would be stupid not to do what you once did best and bring out another album.
I first loved this Scottish band from their hit single 'Dont You [forget about me]' which is synonymous with the movie it featured in Breakfast Club (featuring the brat pack of the time Allie Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and that bloke from Weird Science whose name I forget).
Graffiti Soul, released this year, is really a surprising album. Which I suppose is a silly thing to say considering that their earlier albums demonstrated an ecclecticism that they have become somewhat renowned for. The reason that I find this album surprising is not because it is brilliant, nor mindlblowing-but mainly because you can not really tell that they are an old band making a come-back (as it were). The sound on this album could be the sound of a new band influenced by bands like Simple Minds. I think this is a good thing because they aren't brewing up more of an old recipe that really only appeals to their loyal fans and a specifically targetted market. This album could appeal to anyone.
For me 'Rockets' is easily the best song on the double disk album. It has an upbeat steel guitar-cross synthesizer-feel which accompanies a clappy hands stomp style musical wallpaper. Lyrically it isnt brilliant but vocally they are still as smooth, deep and stunning as they have always been. If anything, vocally they have really matured and thickened in a way that is really appealing and a little reminscent of U2s Bono.
'Stars will lead the way', takes off where 'Rockets' lands and by this 3rd track of the album, I think the listener begins to settle into the experience, understanding what they are going to get from this album. And I must say, in this sense, the album delivers.
The best songs on this album are certainly comparable to many of U2s best ofs, and once you realise this, I think you can begin to tire of them a tiny bit. Some other songs on this album can be compared to some of Keane's better tracks-musically at least and think this is where they have achieved sounding like a current band making it big for the first time.
Other highlights of the first disc are 'Light Travels'and 'Graffiti Soul' (which is really reminiscent of their older stuff and absolutely stunning).
The second disc has some really wonderful cover tracks (my faves are Massive Attack's 'Teardrop'). Their version of 'Whiskey In The Jar' is a bit basic and been done by two many bands to hold any interest for me, but they do add their own sound to it-who hasnt?
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Moscow Underground
4 Light Travels
5 Kiss and Fly
6 Graffiti Soul
7 Blood Type O
8 This Is It
9 Shadows & Light
10 Rocking In The Free World