1980, Music

Empires and Dance (1980) by Simple Minds

Is “I Travel” the first post punk song this dancey? It sounds like they invented New Order’s sound before New Order got to it. I gotta say I wasn’t expecting that when I put on this record.

The rest of the album is a lot more conventional than that but that first song really shocked me. I can’t help but admit I’m one of those people who thought this band, with a very long career, was just that “Don’t You Forget About Me” band. I’m sorry.

This feels like both a more polished and more ambitious record than the previous one. The band sounds more self-assured and also tries things seemingly a little out of their wheelhouse. Much like on the previous album at times it feels a little bit like one of the missing links between post punk and synth pop, as there is significantly more synthesizer to many of these tracks than you would expect on more strictly post punk stuff. (Not to mention the dance sound of the first rack.)

The songs are again decent. Not that you come to this genre for songs but one thing that sets Simple Minds apart from some of their contemporaries is that some of their melodies are catchier than you might expect with a band (and genre) so damn obsessed with atmosphere.

But a lot of the appeal for me comes from the arrangements. I feel like there’s far greater sonic diversity here on this record than on the previous album. And that keeps me from getting distracted by Jim Kerr’s voice which, once again, sounds a little too similar to some other singers at times.

Like basically every post punk album from 1980, the album sounds unmistakably from its time but, for me, that has never been a problem with this genre. I like post punk because I like the way it sounds. And that’s true of this album, though I do appreciate their attempts to do things that don’t fit the genre’s conventions.


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