Friday, 6 September 2019

Simple Minds - Sons And Fascination (1981)

In trance as mission....

  

Released on 12 September 1981

Running time 43.50

This was already Simple Minds' fourth album. It was a shame that their legacy is very much one of being a "pomp rock" stadium band such as they became in the late eighties. Before that, they produced a whole string of highly credible, ground-breaking albums. This one is notable for its pounding rhythm section which dominates over the synthesisers, and in, for me, a very good way. I like this sound a lot, it is the group's "biggest" sound to date. There are influences of Joy Division, Public Image, Kraftwerk, Roxy Music and David Bowie all over the album but not to the detriment of the group's originality.

The album was released simultaneously with "Sister Feelings Call", but in many respects they should be treated as separate albums, which is what I have done here. Isn't "Sons And Fascination" such a typical new romantic album title, by the way?

TRACK LISTING

1. In Trance As Mission
2. Sweat In Bullet
3. 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall
4. Boys From Brazil
5. Love Song
6. This Earth That You Walk Upon
7. Sons And Fascination
8. Seeing Out The Angel                                            

"In Trance As Mission" starts with a stately, very new romantic meets post punk drumbeat, followed by those haughty, sonorous vocals so redolent of the early eighties. Deep synthesisers abound too. It is a sombre, strong but haunting opener, nearly seven minutes in length. It is most atmospheric and signifies Simple Minds as an inventive, adventurous, decidedly uncommercial band at this point. At many points the song is very Joy Division-esque with hints of The Doors "The End" in places too. It is certainly no "greatest hits" material - no stadium rock or polished pop here at all.

"Sweat In Bullet" ups the rhythm slightly, with a syncopated groove backing another very new romantic, mannered vocal. There is a dance-ish beat to this that is a bit Taking Heads in style and Jim Kerr's vocal has a bit of David Byrne quirkiness to it. It also features one of those very eighties semi-funky synth/guitar breaks. There is also something a bit Roxy Music about it - although it has its own bright and unique style of art rock, it has that early Roxy futuristic feel in there. The perplexingly-titled "70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall" reminds me of some of the material on David Bowie's 1979 "Lodger" album, something about the lyrics, rhythm and those distinctive vocal rises and falls.


"Boys From Brazil" is another Joy Division-ish, chugging, overpowering number, the sharp European-sounding synthesisers interplaying wonderfully with the thumping, insistent drums. "Love Song" is the most instantly appealing cut on the album, but even despite its catchiness in places still retains a grandiose depth to it. "This Earth That You Walk Upon" has a deliciously infectious percussion running from the beginning all the way through it. It is sort of Ultravox meets Talking Heads' "The Overload". It has a big rumbling bass line too, powering its slow, futuristic funkiness along. "Sons And Fascination" is massively pulsating with its huge reverberating drum/bass repetitive beat. Once more, the krautrock synths are regally beautiful and that rubber band bass sound complements it well. The vocals are almost incidental, it is the rhythm and the keyboards that you hear. "Seeing Out The Angel" is a mysterious, ghostly closer to the album, which, yet again, reminds me of "The Overload".

I have to say that this album still stands the test of time and sounds impressive today. Simple Minds have been somewhat unfairly maligned at times over the years. These earlier albums do not deserve any such negativity, the exact opposite in fact.

B

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