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Simple Minds: The Vinyl Collection (’79-’84)

So Kerr and co were never prog? Remind yourself of their first five albums.

It says something about the huge amount of opprobrium that Simple Minds earned during their 80s heyday as major arena rock stalwarts that the case for the Scottish veterans’ status as wielders of a progressive mindset still needs to be made.

The Vinyl Collection contains all you need to know: these seven remastered albums tell the story of the band’s first five years, during which they created an admirable body of adventurous, eclectic and genuinely groundbreaking music.

Exhibiting a similar ability to assimilate influences from prog, art rock and all manner of unconventional sources, the first five Simple Minds albums remain compelling. Life In A Day, the feisty debut, is a sustained rush of wide-eyed experimentation and obtuse melodic power, with songs like the title track and celebrated single Chelsea Girl echoing the like-minded explorations of Magazine, Bill Nelson and The Associates while establishing a distinct personality for a still very young band. Also released in 1979, Real To Real Cacophony earned comparisons with the genre-mangling likes of PiL’s Metal Box and Wire’s 154 with an intricate but engaging mixture of oddball arrangements and subtly incisive tunes. This wonderfully perverse and eclectic approach continued through the glorious Empires And Dance – both Simple Minds’ strangest and most affecting work of all; an often austere but always vibrant collection of skewed art rock that, a quarter of a century on, sounds even less like the work of a band that would end up churning out execrable twaddle like Belfast Child a few short years later.

Adventurous, genuinely groundbreakng music.

Originally released in tandem, Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings Call represent the final blossoming of the Scots’ creative urges. Perhaps surprisingly, the albums also heralded Simple Minds’ official arrival at the pointy end of the UK album charts, as songs like* The American* and Sweat In Bullet demonstrated the ongoing refinement of frontman Jim Kerr’s songwriting skills via the prog-friendly credentials brought to bear by the presence of producer Steve Hillage. From that moment on, Simple Minds were heading upwards at an extraordinary rate. 1982’s New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) was the band’s first bona fide pop record and one that encapsulates the sound and ambition of that era, but it lacks the feverish artistry of its predecessors. By the time the largely likeable Sparkle In The Rain emerged in 1984, Simple Minds were chipping away at their reputation by seeming to grasp for Bono’s coat-tails, but despite the bloated horrors that followed, the legacy contained on these 14 sides of plastic remains an enduring one.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.