In "New Gold Dream," the SIMPLE MINDS make gaudy, sound-track music that is a far cry from their early days when they feebly mimicked the most cloying affectations of their heroes, David Bowie and the Roxy Music gang.
Somewhere along the way they acquired a crafty, compelling sense of rhythm and developed a flair for stylish synthesizer work that puts them head and shoulders above the bulk of the competition.
"Someone, Somewhere in Summertime" kicks off this record in fine style, its head in the clouds of arty atmospherics but its feet firmly planted on the dance floor. "Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel" is a driving follow-through, borne forward by a thumping, sensuous white-funk bass and twinkling electronic effects. "Promised You a Miracle," the new American single is a slick slice of swooning Eurodisco -- sharp slanted guitar chords amid soft keyboard swells. The album continues in this vein, bogging down on the second side momentarily with relatively anonymous fare like "Glittering Pride," but it finishes strong.
Canada's MARTHA AND THE MUFFINS work from similar source materials but have evolved in a very different direction. "Dansetrac," their latest release, is tightly coiled, uneasy listening. The music is anchored to powerful, danceable rhythms and colorful melodies. But woven in are sneaky snips of angry dissonance -- wrenching guitar sounds, tricky shifts of beat and texture. One moment the listener is being drawn in by the catchy tunes, the next, appalled at what nestles beneath them. It's a subtle, provocative recording. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUMS SIMPLE MINDS -- New Gold Dream (A&M SP4928). MARTHA AND THE MUFFINS -- Dansetrac (RCA AFL 1-4669). THE CONCERT SIMPLE MINDS & MARTHA AND THE MUFFINS, Monday at 8 at The Ontario Theater.