Hardly content with fumbling around with the same sound, Simple Minds shifted gears once again for album number three, Empires and Dance. The "dance" aspect of the title needs to be emphasized, but it's apparent that the group's globetrotting and simmering political tensions in Britain affected their material in more ways than one. One gets the idea that Simple Minds did some clubbing and also experienced some disparate views of the world. The opening "I Travel" is the most assaultive song in the band's catalog, sounding like a Giorgio Moroder production for Roxy Music. Think "I Feel Love" crossed with "Editions of You," only faster; gurgling electronics, a hyperkinetic 4/4 beat, and careening guitars zip by as Jim Kerr delivers elliptical lyrics about unstable world affairs with his throaty yelping (this was still before he developed that predilection for foghorn bombast). The remainder of the album repeals the blitzkrieg frenetics of the beginning and hones in on skeletal arrangements that focus on thick basslines and the loping rhythms that they help frame. The hopping/skipping "Celebrate" isn't much more than a series of handclaps, a light drum stomp, some intermittent bass notes, and some non-intrusive synth effects. It goes absolutely nowhere, yet it's more effective and infectious than most verse-chorus-verse pop songs. The seven minutes of "This Fear of Gods," which boast another dense rhythm abetted by trebly atmospheric elements (distant guitars, percolating electronics, sickly wind instruments), come off like an excellent 12" dub, rather than an original mix. Just as bracing, the paranoiac disco of "Thirty Frames a Second" should have been played regularly at every club in 1980 and should live on as a post-punk dance classic. It's a true shock that this record was released with reluctance. The band coerced an unimpressed Arista into pressing a minimal amount of copies for release (fans still had trouble locating copies), but thankfully Virgin reissued it in 1982.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman