Review of Simple Minds album Graffiti Soul
Many people's residual image of Simple Minds is of their crimes against popular music, Belfast Child and Mandela Day. Whilst being responsible for even one of those should in most cases be punishable by ten years locked in reality TV hell, the Glaswegians' early pedigree - most present on the hypnotically brilliant New Gold Dream and it's more rock orientated successor Sparkle in the Rain - is a worthy and now frequently overlooked check and balance.
Graffiti Soul is the band's sixteenth studio album, but the noughties has seen them facing an increasingly hostile press and an indifferent public, with the likes of 2002's Cry and 2005's Black And White 050505 pilloried by the former and ignored by the latter. Now, with an eighties synth pop revival in full swing - and the likes of White Lies recycling their formula - cynics might question the group's motives, but on the evidence presented here, Jim Kerr and co. aren't quite ready for the Christmas nostalgia tour yet.
One of the most compulsive features of their early work was the sinuous, dry funk bass of Charlie Burchill, and it's pretty much Graffiti Soul's DNA, particularly on opener Moscow Underground, where it rumbles Peter Hook-esque underneath a suitably multi-layered soup of dreamy ambience.
It's fair to say that there's nothing startlingly new here, but having wisely ditched the stadium pulp lyrics and faux-celtic stylings of old, there's a sense of quiet distinction. Both the title track and This Is It bounce along with an energy and lack of pretension which seems to illustrate that the protagonists have now accepted their limitations, and are prepared to stretch - rather than over-reach - these creative boundaries.
You would expect such maturity from a band who released their first album thirty years ago, but now arguably they find themselves in profile terms having come full circle. Demonstrating that patience is a virtue, by sticking to their guns they've now arguably met popular music culture coming back the other way. A footnote however: Graffiti Soul will come with a partner covers album, and I for one would prefer to be on a different continent rather than listen to their versioning of the Beach Boys Sloop John B.