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Like a glittering prize

I've been listening to a load of Simple Minds just recently, in honour of Charlie Burchill's birthday, and am still bemused by the enigma that is their career path.

How can a band release as many as five (5!) albums that are at a pretty consistent standard of excellence, and then suddenly turn, more or less overnight, into complete drivel? One or two good albums before going down the quality tubes I could understand, but five? You'd think that by that stage you would have found your groove and would stick with it, not abruptly wrench yourselves into a vastly inferior version.

The sad thing, I think, is that people who only became aware of them via 'Waterfront', 'Don't You Forget about Me', 'Alive and Kicking', 'Sanctify Yourself' and other such flatulent stadium-fodder dross are probably not even aware that they had previously been a really good, interesting, thoughtful band, working more in the vein of Kraftwerk and the industrial pioneers. And it's not as if there had been a creative personnel change -- the drummers had a revolving seat policy, but Burchill and Jim Kerr persisted throughout.

Maybe it was because of Kerr taking up with Chrissie Hynde, which pretty much coincided with the change in direction. Hmm.

Poll #1652043 Simply minded?

What do you think?

I'm not familiar with the band in question, so will refrain from comment
2(11.1%)
I don't think I can have heard any of the pre-1984 stuff, so can only shrug vaguely
9(50.0%)
I agree, it is a bit of a puzzle isn't it?
4(22.2%)
I disagree, I think the pre-84 stuff is as bad as the later work
0(0.0%)
I disagree, I think the 84-onwards stuff is as good as the earlier work
0(0.0%)
Meh, none of it really does much for me tbh
2(11.1%)
Am I the only one who detects more than a hint of Throbbing Gristle's influence in the Empires and Dance album?
1(5.6%)

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Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
bluedevi
2nd Dec, 2010 13:02 (UTC)
I'd only heard the newer stuff till a couple of years ago, when the electro-obsessed timscience played Theme For Great Cities at me, then told me it was Simple Minds and watched my mouth fall open.
undyingking
2nd Dec, 2010 17:35 (UTC)
I love it when that sort of thing happens. (Not just when it's Simple Minds.)
bateleur
2nd Dec, 2010 16:10 (UTC)
I've only heard any of their earlier stuff in the last 10 minutes c/o Spotify, but having done so I'm inclined to provisionally agree with you.

Spotify's editorial comments speculate implicitly that the band's shift in style was motivated to some degree by the commercial success of "Don't You (Forget About Me)".
undyingking
2nd Dec, 2010 17:39 (UTC)
Mm, sounds plausible. Although seems a bit crass to effectively turn their back on the existing fanbase for the sake of sales to breakfast-club-loving American teens.
bateleur
2nd Dec, 2010 17:46 (UTC)
Certainly in retrospect.

Still, I expect their intention was to switch styles rather than to become bad as such. I am reminded of a comment recently made by game designer Andy Schatz. For a long time he stuck with developing his Venture series (Venture Arctic etc.) because he felt that he didn't want to abandon his fanbase. However, he was making barely enough money to live on and not having much fun. Then he eventually decided to take a break to write Monaco and it proceeded to win the IGF and become one of the most anticipated titles of 2011.
bateleur
2nd Dec, 2010 17:47 (UTC)
...erm, the game did that is. Andy is a fine chap, but is not and probably never will be a highly anticipated title!
undyingking
2nd Dec, 2010 18:15 (UTC)
Mm; I suppose thinking about it, I have done the same sort of thing myself: it certainly feels different from this end. I sometimes get a bit puzzled when people ask if I'm going to do [previous kinds of games I've worked in] again: I think that what I'm doing now is just as good if not better, just in a different genre.
bateleur
2nd Dec, 2010 18:17 (UTC)
It's a compliment really, that fans of your previous work care enough to ask.
undyingking
2nd Dec, 2010 19:24 (UTC)
Mm, definitely, I certainly appreciate that aspect of it.
cleanskies
2nd Dec, 2010 20:04 (UTC)
it's nothing to do with Chryssie Hynde
Between New Gold Dream and Sparkle in the Rain, they went on tour with U2.

You may blame Bono.

Love Song is one of the most beautiful songs ever! We had plenty of early Simple Minds at our wedding :D

Edited at 2010-12-02 20:06 (UTC)
undyingking
3rd Dec, 2010 09:02 (UTC)
Re: it's nothing to do with Chryssie Hynde
Something else to blame Bono for! And one small part of the world makes sense again.
ninthcouncil
4th Dec, 2010 19:34 (UTC)
They discovered how the "stadium rock" trick works and ran with it. It's not surprising that bands do this - unless you're on the gravy train, music isn't a good way of supporting a family. So after a few years the choice becomes to give it up and get a regular job, or to swallow your pride and try for the big money, even if it means becoming Queen. And not making anything like The Changeling ever again.
undyingking
6th Dec, 2010 12:11 (UTC)
Mm, that's all perfectly reasonable, but one can aim to become REM rather than Queen, I would hope. I could understand them not making anything like The Changeling again, but not to even make anything like King is White and in the Crowd again seems to be going a bit too far.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )