All-Time Albums: #13


SIMPLE MINDS New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

1 Someone Somewhere In Summertime 4:38 (UK single, #36)
2 Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel 3:49
Promised You A Miracle 4:27 (UK single, #13)
Big Sleep 5:03
5 Somebody Up There Likes You 5:02
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) 5:38
7 Glittering Prize 4:33 (UK single, #16)
8 Hunter And The Hunted 5:55
9 King Is White And In The Crowd 7:00

I promised you a miracle, and here are Simple Minds at #13, just outside the Top 10 greatest albums ever made (in my opinion, of course). New Gold Dream is generally held up to be their defining moment, the culmination of years spent building a style and a fanbase substantial enough to crack the Top 40 and see them gracing Top Of The Pops on a regular basis.

It’s the record which remains arty and mysterious enough to appeal to their earlier admirers, but commercial enough to bring along the Smash Hits and singles-buying crowd. Yet again, basically, it’s the one which captures an act in the crossover from one stage of their career to another. And delivering a perfect combination of everything they do best.

With two genuine hit singles helping it clock up over a year on the charts, New Gold Dream paved the way for the in-at-number-one, stadium bombast years of Sparkle In The Rain and Once Upon A Time, and those latter albums were my entry point. Glittering Prize and Promised You A Miracle had registered on my radar in 1982, in a yeah-I-quite-like-them-whoever-they-are sort of way, but Waterfront had the benefit of being high in the charts when I had my major Damascene pop music experience in late 1983. A school friend lent me their copy of Sparkle In The Rain for a night not long after it was released, and that was me hooked.

There was something different about Simple Minds during 1982-1984, and the sleeves, the imagery, not to mention Jim Kerr’s stream-of-consciousness mumbo jumbo lyrics. It all seemed very symbolic of something, with their Biblical typography and the underlying sense that this was a bit deeper than your average pop fare. Either that, or it was all a load of made-up bollocks. Maybe both. The music was great, and ultimately that was all that mattered.

New Gold Dream surprised me when I finally heard it in full around Easter 1986; the only version of Simple Minds familiar to me was the full-on, clattering, anthemic one, so these subtler mood pieces and intricate synth melodies were a refreshing change. Even then I much preferred the likes of Big Sleep, Someone Somewhere In Summertime, King Is White And In The Crowd and the epic, sizzling title song to pretty much all of the overblown Once Upon A Time record that was still fairly recent and generating Top 20 hits.

This is an album which has aged incredibly well, and I seem to enjoy more every time I listen to it, which is far more than most of its 1982 contemporaries. The key with this era of Simple Minds is the music drives the songs, rather than the vocals; the arrangements ebb and flow, swoop and soar….peak and trough….it’s a very fluid style, with Kerr adding to the atmosphere with his own peculiar, rhythmical word association.

This is also perhaps the first album in the countdown where every track would score a 10/10 from me, while the track sequencing is absolutely perfect. I’ve never been one of those people who writes off everything the band did afterwards, because a lot of the records they made after 1983 are well worth investigating and spending time with. But there is no doubt New Gold Dream remains their finest work.

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