Simple Minds

Real to Real Cacophony

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To the delight of some open-minded post-punk fans -- fans who also had space for the relatively new, untraditional likes of Devo, Kraftwerk, and Eno in their record collections -- the relative simple-mindedness of Life in a Day was blown to bits and left for dead on the pub floor by Real to Real Cacophony, the wide-eyed carnival-like follow-up released only seven months after its predecessor. The artistic leap from Life in a Day to Real to Real has to be one of the most mesmerizing ones imaginable, an improvement that is even more impressive when the short time between release dates is considered. It's where Simple Minds ventured beyond the ability to mimic their influences and began to manipulate them, mercilessly pushing them around and shaping them into funny objects the way a child transforms a chunk of Play-Doh from an indefinable chunk of nothing into a definable chunk of something. Aside from a mercifully brief lapse into aimless murmuring and doodling that occurs during the middle of the record, Real to Real Cacophony is rife with countless bizarre joys. It knocks you on your back with pretentious artsy-fartsiness as instantly as New Gold Dream dazzles with its art pop pleasures, but its challenging melodicism through jerky time signatures and an endless supply of varied sounds and textures keeps you coming back for more. "Real to Real," a sinister rewrite of Kraftwerk's "Radio-Activity," is a good, quick point of reference. Guitars are employed less frequently and are replaced by burbling electronics and further use of keyboard shadings, though the absolute high point of the band's early years, "Changeling," benefits from plangent, angular jabs. The record is certainly as much of an achievement as New Gold Dream -- an achievement that's on a plane with other 1979 post-punk landmarks like Metal Box, 154, Entertainment, and Unknown Pleasures. No kidding.

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