Simple Minds – New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) – Round 38 – Graham’s Choice

My choices were more functional than inspired.  Drawing 1982 and 2007 was not helpful as in 1982 I was sixteen and had little ‘taste’, whereas in 2007 I only bought 2 records released that year (and didn’t think the team would put up with 24 tracks from Led Zep’s ‘Mothership’).

Had it been 83-84 (geddit?), the field would have opened up much more widely, but 82 was always going to be a different offering from an artist/s I had brought along before. However, in recent developments, a half-term clearout of our loft has led to the discovery of another box of LP’s which contained potential choices. In amongst others that can only be described as “corkers” I know Rob can’t wait to hear Marillion’s 1983 ‘Real to Reel’ live album!

After playing ‘Sons and Fascination’ in Round 29, I thought I would bring this along as it fills the slot between that album and where it all went wrong (at least in my opinion) in 1984 with ‘Sparkle in the Rain’. There are a few hints on this album as to where they are going, but mainly they seemed to be applying a more ‘poppy’ polish to the sound on their previous album. In fact some of the synth and baselines on this album had me thinking more ‘New Romantic’ than ‘New Wave’ and I’m sure Kajagoogoo must have had a listen.

If you turned the drums on the title track up to “11”, you are not that far away from the “de-dum, de-dum, de-crash bang wallop of ‘Waterfront’. My favourites remain ‘The King is White and in the Crowd’ along with the only instrumental, ‘Someone up there likes you’. Both tracks typical of a haunting and sophisticated sound, shortly to be totally dispensed with.

With the nights’ strongest linkage between artists and years, I threw in ‘Nothin’ from 2007’s Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration on ‘Raising Sand’. The track is a cover of a Townes Van Zandtsong and apart from some of the “pickin’ and fiddlin’” sounds pretty alien to the rest of the album.

Tom Listened: Having set the ‘Year of Release Lucky Dip’ theme, I have to admit to a pang of guilt when Graham (having, by his own admission, struggled to find something to bring from 1982) suddenly exclaimed that he could have brought The Nightfly by Donald Fagan…an album that is currently languishing in the side door of my car! It would have certainly have given the evening a different feel – slick ‘yacht rock’, as opposed to the new wave transitioning into stadium rock of New Gold Dream.

I was really impressed with Sons and Fascination, less so with NGD, probably because it was easier to hear echoes of the Simple Minds we all know and hate. Still much more palatable to me than what was to come afterwards, Simple Minds on New Gold Dream sounded like a band that were in the process of cashing in their chips – they had decided on their game plan and had begun making music that was (probably) less innovative and creative and (definitely) more commercially attractive than what had come before. It was interesting to hear the progression but, for me, I suspect Sons and Fascination will be the last album in their chronology I would be interested in picking up.

Rob listened: Graham drew the short straw in more ways than one. Not only was he allocated what seemed to be one of his most heavily mined years, but he also got to play his eventual choice during takeaway hour. I’m not sure how much we all listened. I liked some of what I heard, recognised some of it, and the transitional phase represented by NGD is easy to discern.

I have a certain sympathy with Simple Minds. It’s easy to look back after decades of hearing their most famous songs pumped out of the radio like so much aural styrofoam and conclude that they cynically moved into making hollow stadium rock. I can’t imagine they did. Back in the early 80s, along with U2 and others I’ve blanked from my memory, the shift towards making a bigger sound, writing bigger songs to attempt to fill bigger spaces, physically and emotionally (and yes, financially) must have been at least as much an artistic endeavour as a business one. I’m not convinced they could have known where they were going, how it would be received or, years later, how hollow it would sound.

Nick listened: Rob’s right that this suffered by timing – whatever’s on when the food arrives tends to get short shrift, whether it deserves it or not. After exposure to Sons and Fascination, Real to Real Cacophany, and Empires and Dance this year – my first foray into Simple Minds beyond big radio hits – New Gold Dream (wtf are the numbers about?) definitely sounded like a transitional record. I didn’t recognise much, if anything, from it, and doubt I’ll investigate it, or them, any further beyond this point.


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