Back to the Simple Minds box set for the final 3 discs in the ‘X5’ collection.
‘Sons and Fascination’ and ‘Sister Feelings Call’ have something of an on/off/on again relationship – are they part of the same record or two separate but simultaneous releases? Let’s say both.
Whatever their relationship, they mark a move away from the claustrophobic sound of ‘Empires and Dance’ to something more expansive and, at times, a little proggy. The wide open spaces of the States beckoned.
Two weeks ago I would have regarded S&F to be my favourite Minds LP and listening to it again in sequence hasn’t changed my mind. (But …) It was their strongest LP up to that point and SFC isn’t far behind.
As ever with the early Minds LPs, the two records contain absolute classics (‘Love Song’ and ‘Sweat In Bullet’ and ‘The American’ respectively.) But there’s a more strong LP tracks than on previous LPs.
Unusually there’s not many clues here as to where they would go next, ‘Seeing Out The Angel’ perhaps, but the mid 80s stadium sound is presaged occasionally, such as on title track ‘Sons and Fascination’.
Of course where Simple Minds did go next was the charts – with their fifth LP ‘New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84’. (As an aside how many bands nowadays would survive on a major label without any hits for even 3 LPs, never mind 4?)
“Everything is possible” sang Jim Kerr on lead single ‘Promised You A Miracle’. And suddenly for Simple Minds everything WAS possible.
With the benefit of hindsight, that leap into the charts seems inevitable but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I can remember clearly a sense of fans willing ‘Promised You A Miracle’ up the charts as it steadily climbed into the Top 20 over the course of SIX weeks after debuting at 59.
There’s very little in their previous history to suggest such a breakthrough but the glossy production chimed with New 80s Pop (for example ABC, the Associates et al) and a growing following finally pushed the band into the grown up charts in a serious way.
Subsequent history suggested to me that, in softening their sound, NGD marked the beginning of the decline of Simple Minds and I did feel that it sat rather uncomfortably with the other records in this set.
However listening to the LP again after a long time proves that it is definitely not the beginning of the end. Other than the fairly limp ‘Hunter and the Hunted’ NGD contains the band’s best non-single tracks. Coupling that fact with the band’s undeniably inexorable rise, NGD is a record that deservedly brought the band to a wider audience.
But for many NGD marks a high point that the band would never match again. The stadium years and an American number 1 single beckoned and the band’s consequent future direction would not sit well with many of the fans who had loved the early records.
But what I’m telling you now is – forget the future. Listening to these 5 LPs again after almost 30 years t’s difficult to argue against the notion that the LPs that make up ‘X5’ are proof that, for a good number of years at least, Simple Minds were a rapidly evolving and developing band changing, and indeed improving, album on album.
In spite of the future slide into pomp and bluster Simple Minds can be remembered for some great music.
This would still be my favourite single: