This wouldn't be an Eyewear blog without a review of a Simple Minds album.
In rear-view, none of the recent, critically lauded comeback LPs have been truly as great as that run from the 1980s - but usually as pompous, majestic, grandiose, religious, and shimmering. My love for this band is in their sure-fire surges of greatness cranked up to 11, and utter refusal of irony - they are the sincerest, and most engaged of bands - emotive, political, passionate - lacking nothing in the way of conviction. In terms of launching into the crowd with dedication to songcraft, pulse of inspiration, and faith in a better future - this is maximum uplift.
Now, 40 years after 1982's New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84 - the greatest new romantic/ new wave LP of the 1980s, tied with one by Echo & The Bunnymen maybe; and arguably one of the most romantic and religious works of Scottish poetry and music ever composed, their latest is back - more bombastic than ever. In terms of grandeur, and rock drumming, and gospel choir backing, and guitars sounding like bagpipes, it's really the sequel to Once Upon a Time, out in 1985, but it has elements of Sparkle in The Rain as well from 1984.
No band has ever produced one of their best albums 40 years after their last true period of greatness - maybe Bob Dylan has come close with Love and Theft. But Simple Minds have.
The bad news first: this is an imperfect album, like nearly all their albums - only 9 tracks (the extra tracks are as good or better than a few included in the regular edition); and one or two are almost duds; there is no instrumental, a shame; and another one of their interpretations of The Call, their old friends from touring days. 'Planet Zero' is the weakest track, then the cover, which perhaps errs on the side of who to blame these days (not Americans or Russians, just corporate criminals); the remake of their earliest song, the insanely catchy and insanely Christian 'Act of Love' is the third weakest; there's a bizarre song about Human Trafficking that may be crass or brilliant - it sounds like Men Without Hats. But that means you get five of the best Simple Minds songs ever.
That's the good news. And it is very good.
'Vision Thing' and 'First You Jump' are supremely well-played and sung, uplifting, positive and inspiring gems, composed in the classic style. A+
The fourth track on the first side, 'Who Killed Truth?' is not only as good as those, but also political, and fully relevant to the Trump, twitter, fake news moment, but without any jarring direct references; allusive, loping, with hints of U2, it could be the next 'Alive or Kicking' - just very catchy. A+
And then, second side (vinyl), first track blows it all into the A++ category. 'Solstice Kiss' has a disheartening 'Belfast Child' opening, but suddenly emerges as, I think, one of the handful of truly great Simple Minds Tracks - in the top ten pantheon for sure. For beauty, emotional splurge, grandiosity and luminous passion, it's as good as anything from the classic 80-85 period. Pure MTV schmaltz. I love it.
I can understand this being seen as dad rock, as out of date, but few if any younger bands give as much of themselves or offer as much potential joy and love in their OTT signature style. They're now sui generis, and as good as ever. Rejoice!