Most people know Simple Minds chiefly as purveyors of arena-sized 1980s pop/rock grandeur a la "Don't You Forget About Me" and "Sanctify Yourself." By the time these Scots broke through with a wide-screen U2-ish approach, there'd already been plenty of water under the bridge. They started out firmly in edgy post-punk mode in the late '70s, and by the time of their third album, EMPIRES AND DANCE, they'd reached a crucial turning point. Though they'd begun the process on their preceding record, here they perfected their mix of post-punk/New Wave rock, colorful synthesizers, and dance beats, effectively creating the template for what would soon become known as the New Romantic sound (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, etc).
Empires and Dance is the third studio album by Simple Minds, released in 1980. It reached #41 in the UK Albums Chart. The opening track "I Travel" was released as a single in 1980, failing to chart. Following the release of this album, Simple Minds transferred to Virgin Records, where they met with much greater commercial success. Arista tried to capitalize on this success by re-releasing "I Travel" as a single in 1982, and again in 1983. Both times, it still failed to chart.
After languishing for ten years in the rock wilderness, the Scottish stadium-shakers are back with Black And White 050505, which has been trumpeted by manyas a mighty return to form. And yes, Jim Kerr's vocals are still tremulously emotive, Charlie Burchill is as stirring as ever on his jangling, soaring guitar and the songwriting errs, as always, on the side of supersize anthem. But this spanking new effort, while powerful, boasts a distinctly ethereal quality, softening the stomping stridency of the Simple Minds we knew in the 1980s. Opening track "Home" flirts with an intriguing new sound, haunting yet uplifting with Kerr at his dramatic best, while "Sparkle In The Rain" shimmers with chiming glory. Packed with potential crowd-pleasers, Simple Minds may have stuck wisely with their winning New Gold Dream formula, but they've brought it rocketing up to date. Fans will be gleefully punching the air within minutes. Dissenters, well, they might just be converted.
Neon Lights is Simple Minds' covers album. Frankly, these projects often serve little purpose beyond announcing that the artists concerned have run out of original ideas. With the Simple Minds' new album of freshly composed material, Our Secrets Are the Same, now shelved due to legal complications, the Minds have opted to doff their caps in the direction of the heroes of their youth, such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, and the Doors. This is the material the band performed when they were scrawny Glaswegian punks called Johnny & the Self-Abusers. The arrangements here are slightly dated techno-rock efforts, albeit without the expansive pomp and bluster of their stadium-straddling 1980s heyday. Even so, Neon Lights is probably too respectful. Many of these numbers–Echo & the Bunnymen's "Bring on the Dancing Horses," Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World"–are identikit presentations, while electro-rock assaults on Them's "Gloria" and the Doors "Hello I Love You" are monotonous and misguided. A very interesting revision of Pete Shelley's "Homosapien" and a faithful, powerful reading of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" are much better.
Simple Minds signed to Chrysalis for Néapolis and saw the return of Derek Forbes on bass. Néapolis signals a return to form while remaining on the cutting edge. Unlike U2, the band they have been most often compared to, Simple Minds have not lost themselves in techno beats and processed samples. Longtime fans will embrace this album; from the opening track, "Song for the Tribes," through the two singles, "Glitterball" and "War Babies," one immediately recognizes that classic sound. Other standout tracks include "Tears of a Guy," "Superman V Supersoul," and a potential third single, "Killing Andy Warhol." The biggest surprise on the album is "Androgyny," a welcomed instrumental in the tradition of their earlier works (see Empires and Dance, Sister Feelings Call, and Sons and Fascination). It's nice to know that in the 1990s, one classic new wave band hasn't forgotten what it is all about. Unfortunately, Chrysalis felt there was not enough of a following outside of Europe to justify the worldwide release of the album.
Super deluxe six disc edition boasts an abundance of material. Disc one features a 2016 remaster (by Andrew Walter at Abbey Road) approved by Charlie Burchill and the second disc gathers 12-inch remixes and instrumentals of the singles, a few of which enjoy their CD debut. Various edits and B-sides can be found on the third CD in the set while disc four features previously unreleased BBC John Peel and Kid Jensen radio sessions, recorded in February and August 1982. All ten tracks on disc five are previously unreleased; made up of alternative mixes and demos and the icing on the cake is the sixth and final disc which is a DVD, featuring Charlie Burchill and Ronald Prent's 5.1 surround sound mix, first released on the now long out-of-print DVD-Audio in 2005. This mix of the album is a unique 'full duration' mix which is different to the standard version. DVD also includes promo videos and a few Top of the Pops performances. Note, this is a DVD-V unlike the DVD-A/V disc from previous Simple Minds box sets.