Anyone rushing to call this the best Simple Minds album in 20 or even 30 years is forgetting Black & White 050505 but Big Music is the best since then, the best in a decade; a continuation of fine form shown across the last decade and a half.
It’s also – as its title hints – a reminder of that Big Music-sound that the likes of Simple Minds, The Waterboys and, er, yes even U2 were making in the mid/late-80s. Simple Minds and The Waterboys stuck to their guns and lost their stadium crowds, U2 dumbed it down to the point of lobotomy.
Big Music in fact feels like some conceptual sequel to The Unforgettable Fire, the record U2 would like to make – probably even thinks it’s making each time it enters a studio and, more recently infiltrates your computer.
But back to Simple Minds, this is a smart band – making smart-enough music always. And then from there you can find the absolute highlights. Jim Kerr’s voice is showing signs of strain, he’s softer, weaker here, the music big enough then to carry him, to cover for that. What makes this work – what makes this, at the very least, charming is the way these songs feel familiar instantly but don’t ever seem like copycat material, don’t feel like frauds or fakes. It’s big hooks, easy – simple – choruses, memorable melodies. It is, in a sense, Pop Songwriting 101. That is of course until anyone else tries it. And roundly fucks it up.
That monstrosity of a Manic Street Preachers album from last year, gah – still can’t quite wash that taste. Well, Big Music by Simple Minds is no must-have classic. But it is the antidote to nonsense like that. Big Music by Simple Minds isn’t the best record they’ve made in 20 or 30 years. But it is the best record U2 has made in 20 or 30 years. It is better than anything by The Waterboys in recent memory. It is better than anything from the Manic Street Preachers in 15-20 years. None of that matters of course. What matters is this is the best Simple Minds record right now. And it’s good enough to have. Good enough when you hear it.