Turn Up The Funk – Warm Digits: Flight Of Ideas – Album Review

The follow up to 2017’s Wireless World sees the Newcastle duo expand on the lyrics and guest vocalists and they take the funk up a notch too! A fantastic trip into the topical point of how not every idea we have is the right idea and should be executed blindingly.

Following is my track-by-track thoughts on the new album.

Track one – Frames And Cages: Bang up-to-date but with undertones of Eastern mysticism and the soft wave of the signature Warm Digits sound. Pulsing rhythms through it. Love the ending. A strong album opener.

Track two – Feel The Panic (feat. The Lovely Eggs): First time I listened to it I felt it should have been the lead single, just my opinion. Great catchy lyrics. “Are you infallible? Or just gullible?” Andy’s drumming is a highlight on this. Great guitar licks from Steve as well. They bring out such a big sound for a duo. This track could currently not be any more topical!

Track three – The View From Nowhere (feat. Emma Pollock): A bit more of a laidback groove from the guys this track. Again, great lyrics. Great guitar licks from Steve.

Track four – I’m Okay, You’re Okay: The melody! I love this track. I actually find it very emotional. It’s reminiscent of something off Autobahn for me – just….the emotional impact of it. Gorgeous electronica. But also very organic. A very signature Warm Digits track for me.

Track five – Fools Tomorrow (feat. Paul Smith): Wow! What a track! The funk weaving through and Paul Smith’s voice works ssooo well with the sound. And the beat break around the three minute mark in the song? Divine! Again, tracks on this album are becoming incredibly topical.

Track six – Replication: Again, the melody that starts the track just pulls you in and then Andy drums like an animal. Great bass work and then manic but gorgeous waves of melody and riffs. Something pentatonic with the beat at times. Then another gorgeous beat break around the three minute mark. The bass on this is sublime!

Track seven – Shake The Wheels Off (feat. The Orielles): More funk coming along, but perhaps toned down a little compared to others. Great electronics on it and fab hooks and riffs going on in it. Again very catchy. “A real bone-shaker”, as the song says.

Track eight – Everyone Nervous (feat. Rozi Plain): Beautiful electronics and Andy’s drumming on it is fab. Great guitar reverbs towards the end of the track as well. Rozi Plain’s voice is so wonderful emotive. I find this a wonderfully soft and emotional piece. It actually gives me those goosebump chills of electricity when I play it.

Track nine – False Positive: TURN UP THE FUNK! Wow! Was blown away by this when they performed it at St Luke’s in Glasgow back in February. Great synth melody over the top too. Something you can really just funk out to. Might actually be my fave track on the whole album. If not then…it’s really up there!

Track ten – Flight Of Ideas: These guys really are the modern masters of the looped groove for me. I just love absolutely everything they produce. And – hidden singing sensation on the track – the one and only Steve Jefferis!

A cohesive collection of songs. A maturing of sound, I feel. A little less emphasis on the more motorik sound they had. They have certainly increased the funk ratio and the influences of the electronica that the band originally sprouted from has returned somewhat, but also matured.

Standout tracks for me are: Fools Tomorrow, Replication, Everyone Nervous and False Positive.

A very solid 4.5 stars out of five.

Flight Of Ideas is released on April 3rd, 2020, on the Memphis Industries label and can be pre-ordered online at the Warm Digits store. Click the LINK HERE for details.

Why I Love…New Warm Skin

I cannot reiterate how great a lot of Simple Minds B sides are. Most of them became an “also ran” at the expense of a song that makes it onto an album. I would easily swap Special View for Sad Affair, for example. Others would swap Veldt for Kaleidoscope (as although the song wasn’t released until the I Travel single – as a special flexi disc bonus – it had been formed during the Life In A day tour, so could have easily been recorded during the Real To Real Cacophony sessions).

But when it comes to NWS, it’s difficult to shelf something from Empires And Dance to make way for it. This time, they did make the right choice leaving it for the B side to I Travel.

The drummer girl here loves that intro. It hasn’t got the usual synth sound we get from Mick. And there really isn’t much of Charlie’s guitar over it. Just brief little riffs and licks.

It is a different beast to what else is on Empires And Dance. Musically the tone is much lighter. And there is…for its time, a very traditional “verse/chorus/verse/chorus” structure to Jim’s songwriting on this. Most unusual compared to most everything else of the period.

There is a demo version. Recorded during early EAD sessions. I’m sure after the R2RC fiasco, Arista INSISTED upon demos. I bet they still didn’t know what to do with them. I mean…seriously!? How can you have acts like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith on your label, yet Simple Minds leave you dumbfounded? HOW?! It makes no sense!

Lines from the demo alter to the studio version. Instead the skin being “expensive to touch” for being “novocaine skin” – it’s “expensive to touch” for being “American skin”. And what was once “ugly as sin” is now “transparent and thin”. The third verse in the demo is pretty much a repetition of the first, whereas in the studio version it has been refined and expanded. “…Contorted dreams of the beauticians that pray / crawling out of this heat and drifting this way…”.

I have always been most intrigued by those lines that end each verse, “Is this a war? Is this a god?” A war on what exactly? The natural beauty of the human face? A god? A new god…one that has refined and “perfected” how the human face should be?

Of course, many years later, Lostboy! AKA Jim Kerr revisits those lines and reuses them in the track Nail Through My Heart, with a musicality to the track not a million miles away from New Warm Skin. Defeated in “war” by the superficial, perhaps? “You put a nail through my heart / nail through my heart / then you discarded me. Corrupt from the start / you pushed it too far / then you discarded me. You put a mark on my skin / let yourself in / no escape for me.”

Musically, NWS has more of a “new wave” tone to it than what else is on Empires And Dance. The album is a Euro-centric dance, trance, travelogue…definitely still rooted in post punk and not quite yet new wave – well not as I differentiate new wave to be.

I mean those three/four albums from 1979 to 1981 – Real To Real Cacophony/Empires And Dance/Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – progress yet bridge together so amazingly well. Each a stepping stone to the next and the next. Then…the big leap! The huge curve ball. The stand-alone. The “nothing before it or after”. The freak. The beast that is New Gold Dream.

I hear similarities in the synths of New Warn Skin to what’s on Are Friend’s Electric? and Cars. Simple Minds were very much getting away from wearing their influences on their sleeve by that point, so NWS is a slight hark back in that respect. But I am sure that by this point in the game any similarities in sound were purely subliminal or coincidental.

How deeply we should dissect the track I am unsure. I mean, what is it after all? A parable on the the pursuit for human “perfection”? Superficiality – the ultimate cost of vanity? Is that such a heavy subject? I suppose even still in 1980, plastic surgery was in its infancy – in terms of it deemed as a “standard” procedure. Nobody bats an eyelid over facelifts now – mostly because nobody CAN…if you get my gist?

In musical tone there’s a cool and a heat to it. I like the pace of the chorus…the layers of the backing vocals.

There’s more electronica to come with the sound of Simple Minds. New Warm Skin leads on to Love Song, This Earth That You Walk Upon, Seeing Out The Angel and Theme For Great Cities…and most other tracks on the Sons and Sister albums.

I’d hazard a guess we weren’t meant to take New Warm Skin TOO seriously. I’m pretty sure the younger Jim would not have relished his lyrics being dissected like this. I’m not much sure the older Jim sees much point in it, either.

But it’s what I like to do. It deepens meaning, emphasis, musical enjoyment. I just like to exercise a curious mind. See if I can derive a meaning from the songs, musically and lyrically. “What did Jim mean by that? Does it mean anything? Is my interpretation of things what others’ hear too? Am I the only one that hears this, this and this?”, and so forth. It keeps me happy and occupied (“Not bloody occupied ENOUGH!” shouts Mr Kerr from his Glasgow panic room. Lol).

It’s just a little electronic gem with catchy lyrics.

And that is why I love New Warm Skin. (Demo and studio versions follow.)