Life In A Day

Simple Minds

Virgin, 1979

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Who would have guessed that the band known as Simple Minds would start out as an obscure electronic outfit? Their debut showed some promise, but certainly wasn’t a predictor of the grand arena-ready sound they would be known for in the mid-1980s.

No, the Simple Minds of 1979 were more Ultravox than U2. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s really just a matter of personal preference which style you prefer. Honestly, for me, I could just flip a coin, because I love all incarnations of Simple Minds. (I became a fan more recently though, so don’t ask me to recite verbatim all the line-up changes that have occurred over the years.)

I’ve also been picky and choosy about which of their albums I should add to my collection, as there’ve been almost too many to mention. I have the first three, skipped Sons & Fascination and Sister Feeling Call, stopped at Once Upon A Time in 1985 and then there was a long gap, until I discovered the retro-sounding Cry in 2002. That’s the extent of my “fan worship.” Sporadic, true, but still a fan nonetheless.

As far as their electronic trio goes, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Life In A Day and Empires & Dance are the strongest. The former opens with something of a siren’s wail and a dance beat that would make Roxy Music proud. “Someone” almost has a pub rock feel and I can just imagine some punks slam dancing to it with loud, drunken abandon. It’s a fun way to introduce Simple Minds to the masses, for sure. The sound of the whole album is a bit self-contained, but that’s due to the production values of the period. Producer John Leckie no doubt did the best he could with what he had. As the liner notes state, “Album was recorded at a very low temperature.” At least he kept his sense of humor (if not his sanity) intact.

The title track, while set to a slightly warped marching beat, is too monotonous to make much of an impression. Jim Kerr is one of those singers where you almost need a lyric sheet to understand what he’s singing. The words and music all tend to blur together, but then again, rock music is more about attitude than anything else. Things get punched up a notch for “Another Sad Affair,” even if it sounds like he’s singing “Another Sad Film.” Simple Minds attempt a ballad with “All For You,” which only left me with a bad aftertaste. Kerr should’ve at least tried to sound intelligible on that one.

My choice for best song on Life In A Day has got to be “Pleasantly Disturbed.” It takes you back to the days of Andy Warhol’s Factory when the Velvet Underground were all the rage. As a drone rock number, it simply glows and takes the album to an unexpected, darker and exciting place. Hmmm, maybe Simple Minds is onto something here. There just might be more to this band than initially thought. At least, that’s what I think critics might have been saying to themselves at the time. Another slight nod to the Velvets comes in the form of the utterly charming “Chelsea Girl,” which is likely in reference to the town of Chelsea in England, not the legendary hotel in NYC (though it could go either way). The call-and-response ending is a particular highlight and must’ve been something to hear when performed live.

The ultra-fast guitar playing of Charlie Burchill makes “Wasteland” another winning tune, before the band takes a thrilling left turn with the brilliant closer “Murder Story.” Now the band has clearly hit their stride. It’s rare indeed to find an album that gets better and better as it goes along, but Life In A Day is certainly one of them. Consider this critic impressed, even if this review is 35 years too late.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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