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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… Simple Minds February 26, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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It’s hard now to remember when Simple Minds weren’t a bloated mid-1980s pop band but were a credible, no – an essential, new wave outfit producing a blend of guitars and dance inflected, even disco inflected, keyboard driven music that pushed back frontiers. When Jim Kerr was a man who was slip sliding along the edge of the experimental. When… well, that was then and this is now.

It was Alastair, sometimes of this parish, who I think loaned me Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call (though I may be wrong about the latter) way back when, probably sometime around 1984. But I was already in thrall to ‘I Travel’ and other tracks that Dave Fanning had played by them. This was amazing stuff. Propulsive, dynamic, unrelenting. Guitar music set to Moroder style keyboards. And here’s an interesting thing, some of you will know that I’m a bit of a fan of a certain Steve Hillage, and in particular his and Miquette Giraudy’s dance/electronica experimentation under the System 7 moniker in the 1990s and 2000s, but it was he who produced Sons and Fascination. Which makes sense.

Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, though released simultaneously and culled from one set of sessions were separate albums, perhaps one of the great releases of the early 1980s. ‘Love Song’, ‘Sweat in Bullet’, ‘The American’, ‘Theme for Great Cities’, ‘In Trance as Mission’, and on and on. Song after song, a number of instrumentals and reworked tracks. And almost all of them classic in their own way.

Listen to ‘Theme for Great Cities’, with it’s deceptively simple keyboard line and surging guitars, all underpinned by insistent drumming and bass and a hint of Jean Michel Jarre – but in a good way. This was a band who not merely got what was possible with new wave but were able to translate it into action. And you can here echoes here not just of then contemporary electronic tinged music, but of later experimentation. Or that great surging baseline that underpins ‘Love Song’ (and another odd video as you’ll see below).

Simon Reynolds in his excellent overview of post-punk seems to regard ‘Promised You A Miracle’ as their best moment, but for my money their last best moment was ‘New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)’ from the same album as PYAM, which melded keyboards with a soaring chorus. That two note keyboard line that again references Moroder, still brilliant even now, along with that chorus. Of course 1984 seems so far behind us, 26 years, and yet I think there’s something about that song that makes it seem fresh and ready for investigation.

But in its genius, and perhaps this is true of ‘Love Song’ too, it also contained the seeds of all that would later go wrong, a certain hint of plodding pomposity.

And of course it all went wrong, didn’t it? And early too – mid 1980s. They sang ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, a song they hadn’t even written, and soon enough they had gone the U2 route into the worst excesses of the ‘Big Music’ (or the Psychedelic Furs route, though the Furs clawed back some degree of credibility in the latter years of their career), indeed their journey was even stranger because it’s difficult to make a strong case for U2 being particularly innovative [The Edge’s guitar work? Well not so much in my book]. Whereas Simple Minds wereinnovative. One of the great pities of their journey was that they moved away from a range of areas that they could have built upon.

But nothing can take away the sheer weirdness of their sound in the early 1980s. His voice set to those sounds. It was something else, an harsh, abrasive, soft, compelling combination. Remarkable and worth revisiting.

I Travel

Theme for Great Cities

The American – 12″

In Trance as Mission

Sweat in Bullet (Video)

Love Song (Video)

New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)

Comments»

1. Jonathan - February 26, 2011

This week I’ll be watching the election of mostly simple minds. (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist…)

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Worldbystorm - February 26, 2011

😉 It was only after I put the post up that thought struck me!

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2. Darren - February 26, 2011

Brilliant band, and you’re on the money about where it all went wrong.

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WorldbyStorm - February 26, 2011

Thanks a million. There’s a YouTube vid of Simple Minds and U2 in 83 doing a joint performance of New Gold Dream… now that might be where it really went wrong! 😉

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3. alastair - February 26, 2011

“It was Alastair, sometimes of this parish, who I think loaned me Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call (though I may be wrong about the latter) way back when, probably sometime around 1984”

Not doubting you – but I’ve no memory of the above. God bless your brain cells.

I’d defend one ‘Sparkle in the rain’ track all the same – ‘Up on the catwalk’ still sounds both strange and good – and although I’ve no idea what Jim Kerr is on about, anything that namechecks Natasia Kinski is good by me.

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WorldbyStorm - February 26, 2011

Yeah, that’s a fair point, one or two good tracks on that album.

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4. alastair - February 26, 2011

ehh – Nastassja Kinski

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