When the album was teased early on, sage thinkers made certain that in addition to the single mix of “Magic” the LP deep cut “The Signal + The Noise” was also released to assure fans of a certain kind that Simple Minds were not going all pop on us after all. From internet scuttlebutt among fans, I saw that people who weren’t completely convinced by “Magic” were still wiling to bite after hearing this incredible song.
That’s because “The Signal + The Noise” is simply one of the best songs that Simple Minds have ever made! It began with a repetitive synth bass riff completely dry and alone until the trancelike rhythms set the stage for Burchill’s tremolo guitar. The driving, almost martial beat and determined bearing of the song seemed ripped straight out of the “Sons + Fascination” playbook, and indeed, it sounds like the missing link between “Sons” and “Sparkle In The Rain.” It’s fascinating to hear the band pick up old traits and carry them forward in ways that we perhaps anticipated but never actually heard 35 years ago. It’s lovely Krautrock influenced dance rock with hints of funk in the synth bass loops. You can put this next to “Love Song” on a playlist and it makes sense.That alone would gladden my heart, but then Jim Kerr opened his mouth.
It’s his lyrics here that take this one to the heights that this song hits. While his voice is couched in dub effects, the words he’s singing are among the best he’s ever penned. Caveat: I don’t listen to Simple Minds for the lyrics. I listen for the musical atmospheres and hybridization of disparate styles of music. In the days before “Sparkle In The Rain,” the lyrics tended to be impressionistic and abstract juxtapositions that suggested rather than reveal, and that allowed listeners to read almost anything they wanted in to the lyric message. I prefer that. The band began writing much more conventionally with “Sparkle” and then dove into cliche and mediocrity with “Once Upon A Time.” I can’t say that too many of their lyrics have held my attention in the years since, but these most certainly do!
“Take off those headphones and let this world pour into you
Throw off those glasses and then you’ll start seeing
Forget those battles, those ones that mean nothing to you
Know you’re alive and just smile, you’ll start hearing” – “The Signal + The Noise”
“Side Two” began with the sleek dance rock of “In Dreams” enhanced by some lovely backing vocals by Sarah Brown, who was shaping up to have a much bigger role in this album as compared to “Big Music.” Mr. Burchill’s guitar rides smoothly over this one like a hawk on an warm updraft. It’s probably a deep cut, but listening to it now, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s single worthy. The backing vocals were particularly nice with large vocal harmonies between the ladies from the touring band along with studio help from the likes of Gavin Goldberg and Clinton Outten [also on “Big Music”], Andy Wright, and Hatty and Emily Parker. The blending of male and female backing vocals throughout the album gives the album a lot of spirit and vitality. Much of the time the BVs were a massed chorus that contribute to the sense of freshness and vitality here.