Jeffrey M. Barker | Tampa, FL United States | 07/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This stuff is as groovy as it gets: I think it is psychedelic disco new wave fit for a space station. It is weird, maybe an acquired taste. Well worth acquiring, though: it is sort of a grandfather to ambient dance music...layers of interesting sounds with a solid, fun, bouncy rhythm section. There are a few cheesy big 80s moments, but hardly anything to really complain about."Sweat in Bullet" show how great Michael MacNeil, the keyboard player was. The bass lines by Derek Forber are magnificent. Jim Kerr was in his prime here. He carved his own image by now (earlier, some critics thought he had emulated Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music). He sounded great....disappointed that Sister Feelings' Call was truncated in order to compress two albums into one CD. While I totally agree with their dismay, I guess beggars can't be choosers. This brilliant music was always snubbed by mainstream American radio, like most anything in the early 80s was from Europe. While American radio dorks were mass-rotating stadium[music]like Toto and Journey, Scotland was light years ahead. GET THIS ALBUM and anything Simple Minds did before it; New Gold Dream and Sparkle in the Rain are also great. Warning: stay away from Alive and Kicking and anything they did afterward. It really, really [smells]!"
Simple Minds first masterpiece.
passenger | dallas, tx United States | 03/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those wanting to learn about Simple Minds' music, start with this. I did, and became a fan. This was the album that established the permanent sound of this Glasgow quintet."
Truly fascinating and original
Disco | Twin Cities, MN | 03/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Simple Minds made some truly fresh, invigorating music in their early days. The band's evolution was so fast and dramatic. This double album was recorded just before the band made their mainstream push, and consequently very little of it sounds commercial. Whilst I feel their follow-up (New Gold Dream) is their best, it's perhaps this record that contains the most challenging yet accessible soundscapes of the Simple Minds catalogue. I can't stress enough how unique and uncategoriseable this record is. It's not mainstream pop music because none of this would ever have gotten much airplay. It isn't progressive rock because of its accessibility. Considering the unconventional rhythms and textures, maybe we can call this industrial pop, but it really doesn't need a label.
The album opens with my favourite, "In Trance as Mission." It's got a driving, insistent 6/4 beat with a killer bassline. Layers of synthesizers propel the song over seven uplifting minutes. Jim Kerr's lyrics are non-sensical yet compelling: "In dream a dream a / courage of dreams / in trance as mission / trans-american / moving on." The darkness from previous albums was left behind on this incredible opener.
Next up are two of my least favourite Simple Minds tracks, "Sweat in Bullet" and "70 Cities." These two tracks exemplify the sometimes overbusy arrangements in the band's more experimental work. Each of these songs have too much going on. They also have some seriously annoying keyboard melodies. Fast forward.
"Boys From Brazil" gets back on track in a big way with pounding drums and more synth layers. Like a lot of their early songs, there isn't a definite, simple, strong melody, but various elements including bass and vocals come together to create a clear picture. Again, the lyrics don't tell a story ("Babies can't manage crocodiles?"), but they fit so well with the abstract network of pulsating sounds behind them.
"Love Song" is anything but. A high-energy, rocking track with a subtle disco backbeat, it could nevertheless have been made in 2007. This is a high point on the record. More great, weird lyrics: "Flesh of heart / heart of steel / so well so well / I cut my hair / paint my face / break a finger / tell a lie / so well so well." The electronics point towards their next album. And the decidedly low-tech tambourine adds a perfect touch.
Sons & Fascination winds down with three slower, darker tracks. "This Earth That You Walk Upon" is a bit lighter on lyrics but dense on musical texture. Processed guitars blend with finger snaps and breathy yelps to create a completely original sound. The title track is a bit more nimble, but retains the darker tone. The rhythm is similar to "Boys From Brazil." Dig some more abstract lyrics: "Summer rains are here / Savaged beauty life / Falling here from grace."
Finally we come to "Seeing Out the Angel," a lengthy, menacing track. The heavy, mechanical composition is the result of a brooding synth line and sparse, robotic drums. This is about as scary as Simple Minds ever got, with the possible exception of a couple songs on Empires & Dance. The eerie music bonds perfectly with the dreamlike lyrics: "Rescue by the first light / Receiving us with these tears / Feeling your gaze in the back of my eyes / Leaving worlds this way." On what planet do you suppose this sequence of alien events transpired? Only deep within the tortured recesses of a nightmare?
Luckily, the second half of the album lightens things considerably. Sister Feelings Call contains what I feel are the (slightly) weaker tracks from this recording session. It opens with the classic instrumental "Theme For Great Cities." This is a fine example of the technical skills each member of the group brought to the studio, in addition to their composing abilities.
Next is "The American," a fan favourite, but really one of the weakest tracks here. The vocals tend towards the bombastic and silly. "20th Century Promised Land" is another weird little song. Better than the previous track, but still skip-worthy. The keyboards are out front too much in the arrangement and the sometimes-painful melody is reminiscent of "Sweat in Bullet." Skip it.
Things pick up again with "Wonderful in Young Life." Faster, more industrial. It's got some funky bass. And it's slightly darker with a nice chugging electric guitar. "League of Nations" has a trippy synth beat that was sampled by Dr Atmo for his Sad World album in 1993. More rather menacing sounds play out to very terse lyrics. Stirring, if somewhat repetitive music.
"Careful in Career" is similar to the better tracks from the first half. It retains the darker feel of those and has more distinct drumming and synth arrangements. Another highlight. An instrumental version of "70 Cities" finishes the album.
One thing that strikes me as I listen to this album is the groupwork -- no one is getting drowned in the mix. This is easily the best lineup Simple Minds had. Derek Forbes (b), Charlie Burchill (g), Brian McGee (d), Michael MacNeil (k). Though they would write even better songs in the future, Sons & Fascination is the pinnacle of their pure musical ability. This is an obscure album, and the flow of the songs is somewhat puzzling. It's mainly just a collection of songs. No real sequencing is evident, so there isn't much contrast as one track moves into the next. But these complaints are minor. This is a groundbreaking piece of work even though relatively few people have ever heard it. Though it's now more than 25 years old, it has aged very well. Highly recommended."
Their very best record -- still new, even now.
Uncle Odie | Somewhere on the Coast of California | 04/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sometimes one generation's vision of what is new and strange seems quaint thirty years on. This music, which is a picture of the strangeness of the modern world of 1980-something, is as vivid now as it was when it was first released.
Part of this is that the sound is so intelligently structured and presented -- the production is a model of clarity. Partly it's the strange palette of tone colors that combine so well with Jim Kerr's rich yet hollow voice.
But most of all, I think, this is because there is something haunting and mysterious about the combined clarity, intelligence, and color that is so perfectly set off by the propulsive bass and drums that drive track after track and that sustain this record over the long haul. The contrast is what makes Sons and Fascination's vision of modernity fresh and evocative even if it is so clearly a thing of its time.
Their later music tends, I think, to sound like Chicken Soup for the New Wave Soul, and their older music seems almost to document Simple Minds groping their way towards this record. If you are a fan of the later stuff for the sake of the allusive qualities that remain in it, you may just find there is more of that here, and better."