Sunday, March 1, 2009

Speed Hypnosis

Simple Minds cassette tapes accompanied me on a quick solo race around western European cities in 1985. I would spend nights in Vienna and Paris walking around with New Gold Dream in my ears, and then Sparkle in the Rain. These are transition albums for this Scottish band. The group was moving into a pompous Stadium rock-style sound and performance that would have them named U3 by some critics. But the Simple Minds of this period could create haunted city-scapes that also had Krautrock propulsion alongside the emerging songcraft that would eventually tip into overblown, grandiose hymns to romantic love and world-spirit mysticism. Prior to that descent into evangelical pop, they were often on the right side of expanding the inner space of their sound without diluting it or overblowing it. The trick was to harness a propulsive, hypnotic rhythm.

I prefer the original rhythm section - the one familiar from 'Love Song' - with Brian McGee and Derek Forbes. Although Mel Gaynor brought a more technically proficient drum sound, the loss of McGee then Forbes spelt the end of Simple Minds as a band that could hypnotise across its full sound -- from Kerr's slurrs, guitarist Charlie Burchell's extra-terrestrial delays and colours, and MacNeil's ethereal and driving sequenced key/synth patterns.

This song is from 1984's Sparkle - Speed your Love. It captures them still capable of hypnotising. Still linked into a 1970s idea of Western European technological modernism. Just.

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