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reviews | nme (august 28th, 2004)

Silver Box album
Silver Box

Box-Set Of The Week

It's hard to believe, and much of this lavish five-CD set of live and demo rarities doesn't help, but honestly - once upon a time, Simple Minds were cool. As angular, theatrical and plain weird as Roxy Music, Sparks or The Futureheads, in 1979 they were true underground stars. Listen to the live version of Life In A Day, Premonition from a 1979 Peel session or the demo of Thirty Frames A Second and you hear startling pre-echoes of the starchy, uptight Euro-funk that also underpins Franz Ferdinand.

CD2 finds the band hitting an early peak with Promised You A Miracle, where their nervy invention is welded to a fuck-off chorus, and the groove-heavy atmospherics of Hunter And The Hunted. All good. Then, in the mid-'80s, something terrible happened. U2 became enoromous and the Minds found their own take on what was called, in all seriousness, The Big Music. Bono appears on a live take of New Gold Dream that's nearly 13 minutes long and 'quotes' from The Doors' Light My Fire. It's immeasurably bad. The Live Aid rehearsal of Don't You (Forget About Me), finds Glaswegian Jim Kerr singing in a Lahndahn accent. As a cultural artefact it's interesting - once - but you'd have to be mentally ill to want to hear it twice.

By CD3, Waterfront - a neat throb of a single - is bloated into ten-plus minutes of wanky noodling and Ghost Dancing is so clearly in hock to U2's The Unforgettable Fire it's embarrassing, By CD4 it's time for Belfast Child. God no! Miraculously, though, CD5 the band's 1999 `lost' album is almost wank-free.

So, devour CD1, check out two, throw away three and four and burn five. Lesson learned.

Rob Fitzpatrick
28th August 2004