[…continued from last post]
Side two of the album began with what is unquestionably the finest track the band had ever done up to that point. That “Premonition” was not the world conquering single from the album, probably came down to its over five minute running time. Here marks the captivating moment when Derek Forbes stepped forward and said “don’t worry guys – I’ll drive the bus!” The result is a monster that was simultaneously the first SM classic and a blueprint for their next several albums.
It sounded as if it had been constructed wholly on the massive bass line that Forbes probably brought to the jam sessions where this album came together. Burchill and MacNeil let the rhythm section dominate as they added textural details on guitar and keys respectively, instead of top line melodies. When Mike MacNeil adds chords, they are either played staccato to heighten the song’s tension, or they remain long, sustained drones
Through it all, the confident, sinuous bass line pulls this amazing track in a serpentine path through the Berlin discos where the band had previously toured. While promoting the record, they heard “Premonition” playing in those same clubs and new possibilities opened up in their minds. This is the crucial moment when the band got the funk. It’s utterly contemporary and never fails to captivate me whenever I hear it… and I’ve heard it a lot! If all they ever achieved was this track, my devotion to this band would still shine as brightly.
The side’s next track was instead culled as the lone single not to trouble the charts. “Changeling” was probably the most commercial song that Arista could have picked as a single, barring “Factory.” That didn’t mean that is was weak sauce in any way, though. “Changeling” was based on a monumental bass/synth riff where MacNeil and Forbes syncopate like there’s no tomorrow! McGee added mutant disco rhythms once again to move it forward. Coming on the heels of “Premonition,” it makes the second side of this album play like a variation on Bowie’s “Low/Heroes” with side one being fractured, oblique art rock and side two being dance funk material in the mold of “The Secret Life Of Arabia!”
After two shocking dance numbers from the band, “Film Theme” was the album’s third and final instrumental. Never again would so many crowd a Simple Minds album, but these would be emblematic of the band’s early, adventurous phase. The dryly cinematic vibe lives up to the song’s name and MacNeil’s queasy synth lines suggest enough anxiety to remind the listener that this was still the same band who crafted side one. The next one reminded listeners that it was also the work of the band who made “Life In A Day.”
“Calling Your Name” was the sole throwback to the first album with the most conventional song structure here. It would have been a great track on the first album, though it’s overshadowed here by the mighty leaps taken elsewhere. Tellingly, it dated from the stages of the “Life In A Day” tour yet managed to make the leap onto the new album in any case. For that matter, so did the final song, though it sounded fully a piece with this second album. The final song, “Scar,” provided a suitable coda for the adventurous album that was an astonishing artistic volte-face like I’ve not heard before or since. It ended the record on a stately, dignified vibe.
There’s no denying that the genie escaped the bottle on this outing! The also-ran New Wave band with traces of The Boomtown Rats rubbing shoulders awkwardly with hints of the Velvet Underground had emerged from the chrysalis of their conflicting debut album sporting dramatic new forms that fully placed the band at the vanguard of the Post-Punk movement with which they identified. This was an album that could sit on the same shelves as those by Magazine or Joy Division without resorting to imitation. And it had a new secret weapon as rhythm section BrianMcGee and Derek Forbes came to the forefront of how the band wrote their material going forward [at least for the next five years]. Moving ahead, Simple Minds would now hang their sound on the powerful, immense bass lines and dry, Krautrock influenced rhythms that looked to trance atmospheres as a creative pathway in their pursuit of capturing the dread and paranoid of modern European life.
Next: …The classic drops