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reviews | empires and dance | musicians only

Empires And Dance album
Empires And Dance

Possibly the Minds' most concerted and successful attempt to get a unified, identifiable sound, though it leans heavily towards Talking Heads and Enosiffication.

All the tracks are reflective, nay, doomy, but that doesn't make the album an uncomfortable listen. Clever use of echo throughout the production merges Jim Kerr vocals into the swirling, clinical backwash produced by the rest of the band. Though there's only one keyboard player in the shape of Michael McNeil, the synths predominate, and Charles Burchill has had to work hard to slot his guitar into the pattern. Usually the old six strings can stand out like a throbbing digit amongst the technology, but Simple Minds have blended it well.

I Travel has a squirming busy background with a few congas and bongoes while Today I Died Again is a good example of the integrated axe. It's steadily strummed throughout the song among reverb laden tom-toms, few if any cymbals (a trait of the album) and drifting synth lines. The keyboard parts tend to wander in an out and sound relaxed almost incidental instead of calculated effects.

Empires and Dance is always unusual enough to be interesting, but never gimmicky. Capital City, one of the finest tracks, begins with a diddling bass line and the rich harmonic structure is built slowly ready for the introduction of fat, chorusy guitar chords. The rhythms beat steadily but hiccup occasionally such as Constantinople Line which sways close to Numanesque vocals. Jim Kerr sings back in his throat, in the familiar angst manner though Thirty Frames A Second becomes too tortured. The final song Room sounds like an afterthought and doesn't even feature on the lyric sheet. Kant-Kino a fascinating guitar-echo unit duet would have been a better ender.

Good album.

Produced by John Leckie, recorded at Rockfleld Studios London, mixed at the Townhouse and Regents Park.

Paul Colbert
Musicians Only, September 20th 1980

Thanks to Robert Struthers for the scan.