1979, Music

Real to Real Cacophony (1979) by Simple Minds

How synthpop and the New Romantic movement evolved out of punk via post punk has always been one of the most confusing parts of recent popular music history, at least to me. But it’s records like this, caught somewhere in the middle (of punk and synthpop), that make that whole evolution a little more clear.

The songs mostly pretty strong, with one or two exceptions. The title track reminds me of the melody from an early Moody Blues song, which is super strange, but, but not in a derivative way, necessarily. But the songs are not why we listen to post punk, normally, and here they are good enough, as is often the case with (supposed) post punk classics.

The performances are a little all over the place, which is why this record gets sorted into different genre bins on occasion. There are way more keyboards here than on most 1979 British post punk releases, which is why this record is sometimes considered as a step towards synthpop. (Though it has this in common with the emerging second wave of new wave.) Kerr’s vocals are kind of all over the place, which is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes he sounds like he wants to be an American new wave singer or Brian Eno, and other times he sounds like he wants to be a deep British post punk singer. (At one point sounding like Ian Curtis for a line or two.) Also, I think I detect Bryan Ferry at times. I prefer this sound to later records of theirs I’ve heard, but it’s clear to me Kerr grew as a singer as their career went on. But the variety of sounds does give the record more variety than the records of some of their contemporaries.

As with most of the music of this era, the production has sort of dated but I mostly don’t mind, as I quite like this kind of music.

I get why this record is rated rather highly by some. It was 1979, after all, and post punk was super nascent and this feels like a reasonably unique take on the sound when Kerr’s voice isn’t reminding you of someone else too much (which is not all the time). But it’s also pretty inconsistent and I find the sequencing not great, as I start losing interest near the end of the record. (Maybe the songs aren’t quite there.) For me, it’s just not up to the level of the other 1970 post punk landmarks.


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