After being released from their contract with Virgin Records, Simple Minds decided to musically reinvent themselves yet again. Having worked since 1991 as a duo with session musicians, Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill reunited on a rehearsals-only basis with the band's original rhythm section, Derek Forbes and Brian McGee (returning after respective eleven- and fourteen-year absences). McGee was not involved beyond the rehearsal stage, but Forbes formally rejoined Simple Minds as bass player in July 1996. To record the album, Simple Minds also reunited with producer Peter Walsh, who'd been responsible for their acclaimed New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) album.
The resulting set of songs (written entirely by Kerr and Burchill) was a move away from the band's more recent stadium rock and funk approaches and a return to their early-'80s electronic pop days (inspired by European experimental pop such as Kraftwerk and Hansa-period David Bowie) as well as incorporating contemporary dance music influences. While the reinstated Forbes played all of the bass tracks, drums were handled either by session players Michael Niggs and Jim McDermott or replaced by programmed loops provided by Hamilton Lee of Transglobal Underground. In early 1997, the band brought in their former drummer Mel Gaynor for a studio session, resulting in him playing the drums on one track "War Babies". In a March 1998 interview with Q, Kerr would comment that «Néapolis wasn't created as some kind of spiritual successor [to New Gold Dream], but I suppose that in getting back together with the people we work best with, some kind of thematic similarity was inevitable.»
Néapolis was released by Chrysalis Records in the UK, but charted poorly and received mixed reviews. Chrysalis refused to release the album in the U.S. (citing lack of interest). The album produced two singles "Glitterball" and "War Babies,", the former featuring a video which was the first production of any kind to film at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Videos for both singles were included on enhanced CD singles released for both tracks.
In early 1998, Gaynor was reinstated as a full-time member in time for live dates. With Mark Taylor as live keyboard player, the band toured Europe between March and July 1998 to support the new album, but the tour was dogged by band members' health problems and contractual fiascos (including a pull-out from the Fleadh Festival). The band parted company with Chrysalis Records after the tour. In 1999, recording sessions for a new Simple Minds album saw Gaynor and Forbes dropped from the band once again in favour of Mark Kerr and Eddie Duffy (although Gaynor would return to the band later).