Scottish Sunday: It's Never Quite that Simple

Once upon a time, the Simple Minds were not the dreary U2 wannabes they became. Before they broke everyone's hearts, they were one of the most exciting and innovative postpunk acts in the world. Before they chased around the almighty pound/dollar/deutschmark (nearly as fervently as they hungered after Bono's dingleberries), the Simple Minds were a neo-Teutonic, proto-Industrial leviathan powered primarily by Derek Forbes' monstrous post-funk bass. 

It's no surprise then that Simple Minds became a comedy when Forbes left after Sparkle in the Rain in 1984 ('Don't You Forget About Me' was the last song he played on with the Minds). Forbes was the heart and soul of the band - his nimble, inventive basslines formed the backbone of all the band's best songs. Without them, it all went more than a bit cabaret.

Which brings us to Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call (1981), which are the earliest example of the double-but-separate LP release we later saw with Guns 'n' Roses and Bruce Springsteen.

Sons is a perfectly OK album, with the mammoth 'Love Song' being the standout track. But Sister Feelings Call is a landmark. 

Producer Steve Hillage (ex-Gong) outdoes all of his contemporaries and messes with the tone and timbre of every single instrument. The snare-band is often turned off so the individual beats have a thudding and tribal feel, but in context sound like the working of some infernal machine. The bass is gargantuan and metallic, fat and heavy. The guitars sound like power tools, the synths like foghorns and conveyor belts, and Kerr's summons the tortured ghost of Jim Morrison for a cab ride through an industrial nightmare.

'Sound in 70 Cities' sums up the whole shebang in a glorious fashion, and bass and drums punch it out with the sound of a pneumatic drill (or something), leading to a climax featuring a glorious guitar arpeggio that sounds like church bells ringing all over the universe.

Sister Feelings Call is easily of a piece with the most seminal works of its type: David Bowie's Low, PiL's Metal Box, Tubeway Army's Replicas, Cocteau Twins' Garlands.  

Spotify must haves: 'Love Song', 'Theme for Great Cities',  'The American', 'Careful in Career' and 'Sound in 70 Cities'.

1 comment:

  1. Love that album(s) love the graphic of both of them- listened to them to death back in the 80s- theme for great cities sounds now like a trance song before trance existed as a genre- it is uncanny- it sounds like a 90s trance anthem. love the next iteration of simple minds as well- new gold dream, with its heavy Christian sensuality. of course, like OMD and tears for fears they got a soundtrack hit and nosedived.


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