Simple Minds attempted to rectify their glory days as an act classic with signature hooks and dreamy lyrical stories on 1995's Good News From the Next World and 1997's Neapolis, but grunge and modern rock had overtaken the new pop generation and Simple Minds fans had moved beyond the beauty of it all. Still, frontman Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill continued on, and into the new millennium remained an ambitious pair determined to prolong their career on their own terms. Neon Lights, Simple Minds' debut for Eagle Records and their first covers album, suggests that perhaps Kerr and Burchill are having a good laugh. This concept album boasts their own favorites -- cuts by David Bowie ("The Man Who Sold the World"), Neil Young ("The Needle & the Damage Done"), Kraftwerk ("Neon Lights"), the Doors ("Hello, I Love You"), and others -- and a confidence that Simple Minds attempt to pass off with some interesting tweaking. Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" starts off with its usual acoustic brushing, but twangy licks are added and the dark haunt of the track itself switches tempo to be more fashionable without the ability to simply arrive like the original version. Echo and the Bunnymen's "Bring on the Dancing Horses" bounces with typical new wave beats, while Burchill's copycat riffs do little to carry one of the Bunnymen's finest tracks. When Neon Lights could have closed, Simple Minds' rendition of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is one of the album's shocking moments. Joy Division, like many of the other acts included on Neon Lights, should remain untreaded territory. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" swirls around early U2 licks (listeners always knew Simple Minds wanted to be like them) and a repetitive chorus, it's no longer sacred. It's permeable and redundant, something so unfortunate for one of the most influential tracks to come from post-punk. Regardless if they're paying tribute to some of their favorites, Simple Minds waltz on sacred ground on Neon Lights. The composition doesn't work and it's a laughable effort, sadly.
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson