Simple Minds | Sister Feelings Call – 4
When Simple Minds mooted issuing two albums separately at once, it must have occurred to some that this might be the “chaff” from their productive sessions which would have been B-sides in another time. The reality was, however, that the grouping of “Sons + Fascination” resulted a tightly coherent sequence of eight songs that nestled together tightly. The seven tracks on “Sister Feelings” call were not inferior material, but instead were songs that pushed further at the boundaries of where their heads were at during the recording sessions.
It began with a huge instrumental, “Theme For Great Cities.” This was not the first Simple Minds instrumental, but it was the first Simple Minds instrumental classic! In a case of “less is more” Jim Kerr wisely refrained from putting his stamp on the cut; correctly sensing it had a timeless and powerful appeal all its own.
“One of the best moves I ever made was not to sing on ‘Theme For Great Cities’. I remember walking around with that in Glasgow on my new Sony Walkman thinking this is f***ing perfect.” – Jim Kerr
That it may have also been influenced by the fact that time and the budget had run out can also be considered, but in the end, Kerr’s judgement resulted in a song of inexorable power that continues to reverberate decades later, first resurfacing several years later during the Second Summer Of Love as a bonafide Ibiza classic. The band have revisited its well on many occasions since with new versions and even an ill-advised attempt at adding lyrics, which we’ll discuss later in this series.
Mike MacNeil’s synths sounded like horns heralding a new era, and Derek Forbes’ by now compulsively funky bass line interlocked perfectly with the stuttering rhythms that drummer Brian McGee proffered. The end result was a rhythmic stiffness shot through with a fluidity that engages the mind and body in different ways at the same time. Perfect. The ascending chord sequence that propelled the song ever forward was yet another example of the same one the band first used in “Cacophony” two years earlier, now mated with an expansive motorik thrust that radiated vibrance where only dank shadows and illness had existed previously.
The fact that the pre-release single from Sons/Sister was from the “budget” album “Sister Feelings Call” should give pause to any thoughts that one album was somehow less than the other. “The American” was an absolute stormer of a cut based on the stupidest, most elemental drum pattern imaginable. In that sense, it presaged the appeal of a track like “Waterfront,” wherein the normally hyperdextrous Forbes delivered a bass line of Neanderthaloid simplicity and power.
“The American” was a song of exhilarating impact. Perhaps its relative lack of subtlety relates to the title? The song’s reductively simple chorus, heard once, is not an easy thing to forget, and when I saw Simple Minds [finally] performing this tune on their last tour of The States in 2013, singing along at the top of my lungs was a perfect moment that I had been waiting for over a dozen years. The one shining moment of flourish and finesse that this song was gifted with came at its coda, courtesy of Charlie Burchill’s intricate guitar solo that added the filigree that transported this song from brutal simplicity across the threshold of breathtaking accomplishment.
The album side ended with the minor key introversion of “20th Century Promised Land,” with MacNeil’s synth patch sounding for all the world like a Farfisa organ, took two steps forward but one step back, almost touching on a Latin mambo rhythmic feel. After two ebullient openers, it was almost a throwback to the dense claustrophobia of “Empires + Dance” and “Real To Real Cacophony.” Kerr’s vocals fit the mood with his deep-sunk tones perhaps showing the Ian Curtis influence just below the surface. The kinetic rhythm guitar of Burchill remained the brightest shaft of light in this crepuscular track.
Next: …a wonderful career