The wonderful in young life....
Released on 12 September 1981
Running time 35.09
This album was released simultaneously with Sons And Fascination and contains similar Kraftwerk meets Joy Division-style fare. As with its companion album, the drum sound is big and booming but successfully merged with some krautrock-inspired keyboards to give a sound that despite being very early eighties, was, at the time, quite innovative and futuristic. Having said that, the drums on the other album sound far clearer and are more pulsatingly addictive.
Overall, however, it is not as impressive as its sibling, giving the impression that it was a bonus collection of surplus material. Indeed, listening to it straight after the leading album of the two, I find it sort of detrimentally eats into the vibrancy of Sons And Fascination. While I feel the former was a truly great album of its time, this can only be treated as an interesting oddity in comparison. I know others may disagree.
1. Theme For Great Cities
2. The American
3. 20th Century Promised Land
4. The Wonderful In Young Life
5. League Of Nations
6. Careful In Career
7. Sound In 70 Cities
Theme For Great Cities once more utilises that rhythmic drum sound over a haunting synthesiser melody. It is an instrumental and it paved the way for much subsequent eighties electronic music and even has a bit of a dance music feel to it, way before its time. Maybe Simple Minds should be remembered for this sort of prototype electronica as opposed to stadium rock singalongs.
The American sees Jim Kerr's slightly overbearing vocals introduced for the first time on a muscular and deep piece of new romantic-style introspective pop. I say "pop" for want of a better word, due to its vague catchiness, but it is essentially pretty dense stuff. I'm sure Kerr had listened to David Bowie's "Heroes" and Lodger in the late seventies as there are many clear influences. The lyrics to the chorus are very clumsy, however, as Kerr sings "Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-Ameri-I-can...". It just doesn't seem to fit at all and irritates me, it always has, right back to 1981.
20th Century Promised Land sounds to me like Gary Numan's Tubeway Army getting together with Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and inviting Björn and Benny from ABBA along to do some of the classically-inspired keyboard runs. Kerr's vocal is hammy and a tad preposterous in places.
The Wonderful In Young Life is an upbeat but slightly sonically muffled and impenetrable number that has the feel of "rejected from the original album" all over it. It has an indistinct, very new romantic vocal.
League Of Nations is a drum-driven thumper of a track which sounds more like a backing track yet to receive vocals, but then, all of a sudden, vocals arrive in the form of some sonorous, monk-like semi-chanted offerings. It ends up as quite an intriguing track, and the drum sound is one that would be used in much dance music towards the end of the eighties and early nineties. The live version that is included as a bonus track on the latest edition is actually much better.
Careful In Career is a baleful, miserable-sounding number enlivened by some cutting guitar interjections. Sound In 70 Cities is an instrumental version of 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall from the companion album. It is full of "Heroes"-style keyboard sounds.
As I said at the outset, though, this collection of material doesn't match up to its "brother" and lacks a true album's cohesion, for me.