Simple Minds - New Gold Dream album review

Five-disc deluxe edition featuring alternative mixes, extended versions and B-sides.

Simple Minds band photograph

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1982 was the crowning year of punk-turned-pop, the same year in which ABC released the recently revisited The Lexicon Of Love, and The Associates their definitive album Sulk. New Gold Dream belongs in this select band of works that seemed to represent the ultimate in pop radicalisation and potentially transformative moments, highly commercial music sculpted with an ultramodern intelligence and self-conscious sensibility. New Gold Dream in particular teetered on a pinnacle. Simple Minds haven’t come close to what it visualises since, but then neither has anyone else.

Having gone through various permutations, from the starter punk of Johnny & The Self Abusers through to the neo-Krautrock atmospherics of Empires And Dance, to the epic shimmer of 1981’s Sons And Fascination, Jim Kerr and Simple Minds achieved a sort of auric transcendence with New Gold Dream.

It’s an album whose titles celebrate its own beauty and vague, wondrous sense of epiphany; Someone Somewhere (In Summertime), Promised You A Miracle. It’s an album that seems to skip and levitate, each track a delicate and butterfly-complex pattern of ABBA-esque keyboards, chiming guitar and funk-inflected rhythm, with Kerr intoning with wide-eyed portent throughout.

The album reaches a peak with Hunter And The Hunted, which features a heart-shredding Herbie Hancock electric keyboard solo, before concluding on an arrestingly uncertain note with King Is White And In The Crowd.

Whatever state of heavenly pop perfection seemed within Simple Minds’ grasp was elusive – a mirage, perhaps – and they seemed to half-know it. They’d flown too close to the sun. A few years later they were stadium rock fillers but aesthetically crashing bores, something the band themselves became conscious of.

This five-disc edition is more for completists than purists who prefer just the perfect arc of the original. It features versions of Every Heaven, a B-side of Someone, cut from the same silk fabric as New Gold Dream but not quite making the cut. Extended versions of New Gold Dream don’t really explore anything new, and club mixes of the singles only remind you what a primitive art club mixing was in the 1980s. Still, if any album deserves a deluxe treatment, it’s this one.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.