Thursday, 18 July 2019

Simple Minds - Empires And Dance (1980)



Released on 12 September 1980

Running time 45.45

This was Simple Minds' third album and, like its predecessors, did not do particularly well. Time has looked on it favourably, however, and it is now considered far more credible than their later, more commercial, well-known work. It is a vaguely unsettling, oddball of a record, merging post-punk bleakness with a dance sensibility. It was actually quite ahead of its time and ground-breaking in many ways. There were plenty of subsequent bands putting out similar material over the following few years, as darkly serious, angst-ridden, paranoid-sounding dance music became de rigeur.

It is easy to dismiss Simple Minds as they, like U2, became somewhat pretentious and also a "stadium band", suddenly finding lots of previously-hidden fans. If you dig deeper into their early music, like this album, you find some genuinely deep, dark, challenging stuff. It was really quite genre-changing.


1. I Travel
2. Today I Died Again
3. Celebrate
4. This Fear Of Gods
5. Capital City
6. Constantinople Line
7. Twist/Run/Repulsion
8. Thirty Frames A Second
9. Kant-Kino
10. Room                                                                     

I Travel is a sort of Giorgio Moroder-style disco groove in the I Feel Love fashion meeting Roxy Music from the For Your Pleasure album, all topped off with Jim Kerr's haughty, sonorous very new romantic vocal. It also finds time for a "Heroes" style guitar solo too. Today I Died Again has a deep, mysterious bass line rumbling through it and lots of futuristic sounds swirling all around. It is very bleak, post-punky in its sombre ambience. Celebrate lifts the mood back up again with a lively piece of pounding but staccato electro-pop. This Fear Of Gods has a big, booming but dense rhythm with hints of Talking Heads post-1980 work. Its beat is metronomic and incessant, thumping into your brain, with some cutting guitar interjections. It goes on for seven minutes, almost like one of the 12" mixes that became so prevalent at the time.

Capital City has an uplifting but slow pace, stately drum, bass and keyboard backing. Kerr's vocals retain that monk-like chanting sonorosity. Is that a word? If not, it should be. There is some excellent guitar and keyboard interplay half way through. It is a weird, mysterious number, totally unlike much material of its day, apart from maybe Joy Division.

Constantinople Line is full of David Byrne-style jumpy quirkiness, with its semi-spoken vocal. It has influences of Lodger-era Bowie too. Once again, it is driven along by an enormous bass line and an industrial strength drum sound.

Twist/Run/Repulsion is a bizarre mix of female spoken French vocals, madcap African Night Flight from Lodger vocal madness and a stuttering, jerky rhythm. It is a complete nonsense of a track, yet surprisingly infectious. This is a million years away from Belfast Child or Mandela Day. Thirty Flames A Second has an intoxicating, European-sounding dance vibe to it that chugs on sounding vaguely like Grace Jones until some searing guitars splits it apart. Again, Kerr sounds a lot like David Byrne in places.

Kant-Kino is a quick couple of minutes of sound effects, while Room finishes this experimental, adventurous album off with some grandiose Kerr vocals over another addictive, slightly Japanese-sounding rhythm. Good stuff.