[Album Review] "Graffiti Soul" – Simple Minds

Graffiti Soul - Simple Minds Album Title: Graffiti Soul

Artist: Simple Minds

Year: 2009

Running Time: 42m 52s

Track listing: 1 Moskow Underground; 2 Rockets; 3 Stars Will Lead the Way; 4 Light Travels; 5 Kiss and Fly; 6 Graffiti Soul; 7 Blood Type O; 8 This is It; 9 Shadows and Light (bonus track); 10 Rockin’ in the Free World (bonus track)

I come from a position of ignorance with respect to Simple Minds.  I liked the Breakfast Club song, didn’t like the Belfast song, loved the song about the girl who resembled a waterway and wasn’t overly keen on the Sky Sports football track.

Simple Minds found worldwide success with the 1985 hit single “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” which preceded their seventh and most successful album to date, “Once Upon a Time”.  After recording a string of further UK hit albums throughout the next decade the band then fell out of fashion and later work like “Neapolis”, “Cry” and “Black And White” made little impact on the charts.

“Graffiti Soul” is the 16th studio album release of their thirty year career and with the recent resurgence of bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and a-ha, the ground is once again fertile for Simple Minds to make their mark.

The album opens with “Moskow Undergroud”, a sonic minefield steeped in guitars and synths with a thumping, ominous rhythm providing the backdrop for the “world of darkened places” and the “world that’s lost control”.  “Rockets” is more in the line of upbeat disco-rock with a killer melody, plush bridge and hand-clapping chorus- a modern-day classic.

There were many comparisons made to U2 over the years and this is no more evident than on the arena anthems “Stars Will Lead the Way” and “This is It”, right down to Charlie Burchill’s lead guitar hooks and Jim Kerr’s smouldering vocals.  “Kiss and Fly” could have been an “Achtung Baby” outtake although it saunters somewhat uneventfully until the chorus, which just about saves the track from average territory.

“Light Travels” starts with a minimalistic 80s rhythm line and a lone guitar. “Light travels through the universe/It arrives, it remains” sings Kerr as he walks the thin line between logic and preposterousness.  The rest of the band join in for the uplifting chorus (“There’s no need to worry/Hello, hello; is anybody home?“) and another recommended track is born.

The title track is a so-so number that fumbles with a strained lyric about “things written on the wall…in my graffiti soul” and a downright puzzling chorus refrain of “you bring me lightning“.  But “Blood Type O” is an exceptional tune that wanders back in to darker territory with an electronic feel that recalls Depeche Mode.

Although the basic record seems to only be eight tracks, two so-called “bonus tracks” are included.  “Shadows and Light” is a fine song that sounds like post-grunge Pearl Jam and their cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” can’t really be faulted even if the last thing the world needed was another cover of this track.

Most of the tracks are characterised by clever production effects, strong instrumentation and songwriting.  It might be my first Simple Minds record but it won’t be my last.



Championship Manager 2010 "does" a Radiohead

CM2010Championship Manager (CM) was the all-conquering football management game franchise until the original creators, Sports Interactive, left the fold.  They went on to regenerate the Football Manager brand and have topped the charts since 2004 while CM has floundered with a series of much-criticised releases.

CM skipped their 2008 release in order to concentrate on really putting a quality product out in 2009.  Last week they released their CM2010 demo (to a fair share of cricitism) and today made a startling announcement when series manager Roy Meredith revealed that the game would be available for as little as 1p.

You can now pre-order the game on http://www.champmanstore.com until midnight on September 10th choosing to pay as much or as little as you like with the addition of a £2.50 handling charge.  The game can then be downloaded from the site on release day.  After this time it will be available at the usual retail price of £25.

This is thought to be the first time that the game industry has seen such a move and it has taken many by surprise.  Game publishers Eidos are following the lead of rock band Radiohead’s decision to release their 2007 album “In Rainbows” on their website with the cost decided by the downloader.  There are differing views on whether or not it was a success but when the album was released on CD three months later it went to number one in the UK and US.

The potential difference between CM2010 and “In Rainbows” is that the latter received overwhelmingly strong reviews.  If the reaction to last week’s demo is anything to go by, CM may have a tougher time convincing the music-buying public that their product is worth paying full price for.

But if they do release a competent game (and after playing the demo for a short while I think they are closer than they’ve ever been in the last five years) then there’s no doubt that this move is great publicity for the brand.

I blogged last November about Football Manager 2009 and what was, in my view, a cynical increase of more than £5 on the usual price point of £18 or £19.  Here we were, already tasting recession and rather than keep the price low, they (retailers? publishers?) put it up.  Needless to say I found an alternative way to play the game and did so until I found a reasonable deal six weeks after release.

Football Manager 2009 receipt
Football Manager 2009 receipt

With Football Manager popping up at a pre-sale price-point of about £25-29 again this year, I certainly will not be buying until it drops below £20.  However, my interest is certainly piqued by the Championship Manager offer and with the option of paying as little as £2.51 for it – the cost of a coffee – it’s hard to see how one could turn that down.

How many others are there out there like me?

I assume that Eidos have done their maths here and this move is all about getting the game in to more hands and rebuilding the brand for future releases.  CM2010 may not make them any money but next year’s game may benefit.

My first man-ssage

With a string of female sports masseuses having moved on at my gym I was left with the ultimate dilemma today – do I let a boy touch my naked body?

Over the last five years I’d gone through a number of masseuses: a former Olympian badminton player (badmintor?), an Asian girl who asked me every week without fail how (a) my girlfriend was and (b) my cats were, a very pleasant Dubliner with no particular character traits, a hard-ass with a pronounced growl, a very sweet girl who was young enough to be my daughter (if I had known what to do with it at 14) and a lovely but easily flustered Spanish girl who was the first and only one to effect inadvertent ‘towel rise’.

After a three month gap (possibly self-enforced after the above-mentioned rise of the machine incident) I knew I had to re-visit for my ever-worsening Achilles injury.  I checked in today to find that there was no masseuse…it was time for my first masseur.

Ed Kowalczyk - who looks like a masseur I "know"
Ed Kowalczyk - who looks like a masseur I "know"

I don’t have a picture of him (hey, I’m lying almost naked in a room with him – last thing I’m going to do is whip out a camera) but I can assure you that he looked like Ed Kowalczyk, lead singer of Pennsylvania four-piece, Live.  Seriously, spitting image.

So we start off with me lying on my stomach in just boxers shorts, a flimsy towel masking the fact that I shop at Pennys.  Ed (for let us refer to him as such) is working the calf muscle, diligently digging his thumbs in to my … calf muscle.  At this point (back in the days when women did this sort of thing) I’d usually be making small talk – you know, stuff like “how long have you been doing this?  what do you do for fun? do you like strawberry blond rockers with excessive body hair?“.

But today, with Ed working it, I found myself unable to relate.  I had nothing to talk to him about.  Occasionally he would see me wince and utter something like “Is it too hard?” to which I would mentally glance south and almost reply “Nope, sleeping like a baby…” before realising what he was talking about.

The kicker here is that the massage room is actually very romantic.  The lighting is deliberately subtle while the deep-yellow electric fire in the corner emits no heat but hypnotically meshes with the piano-led ambient music that repeats about six times in the hour.  It is supposed to relax you, transport you to an ethereal landscape where there is nothing around you except the sound of nature and a guy with a large selection of Yamaha keyboards.

As we entered the closing minutes of our rendezvous he yanked the towel clear and insisted I lie on my back while he observed how my feet “dangled” off the edge of the massage table.  This was a real test of my mettle.  I mean he’d already said the word “dangle”.

After he observed my something-or-other muscle (in my calf) and told me that I needed to crouch and bend a bit to fix it, we then got in to a slightly longer than anticipated discussion about nutrition and stretching with me sitting in just my pants.  In the days of masseuses there is no way I’d be pants-exposed like that for more than a second or so.  It was the ultimate test…and I passed it.

I now know I am capable of being boy-touched without any adverse reaction.  I am capable of maintaining eye contact with a boy massage person while sitting in just a tight-fitting pair of off-black boxers.  I have learnt much today.

Mind you, I’d still prefer a cracking bird next time.