Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 13]

simple minds - sisterfeelingscallUKLPA

Simple Minds | Sister Feelings Call – 4

I’m actually glad that the final part of my “Sister Feelings Call” review was bumped a day on the emergence of the “Sparkle In The Rain” mega box. It’s given me more time to focus on my new favorite thing on this album, the leadoff track on side two! “Wonderful In Young Life” had never been a track that had any particular effect on me, but with the many listenings I’ve given SFC over the last week, and with the benefit of 33 years of Simple Minds fandom hindsight, it’s become the track that towers over “Sister Feelings Call” for me now.

The manic energy and beat of Roxy Music’s “Editions Of You” was given a precognitive dose of “New Gold Dream’s” lush, sensuality with this track. Kerr’s lyrics, which became completely positive here, for the first time in the band’s career, exploded outward in rhythmic repetitions of key phrases to fit the motorik impulse of the song. It is the key song here in linking the Simple Minds of 1980 with the one of 1982. While they would explore such buoyant emotions on “New Gold Dream,” their demeanor would be a far cry from the ebullient energy level here, featuring much slower tempos to more introspectively explore their newly defrosted emotions. In this way, it prefigures the also upbeat, but more energetic sound to come later, as in 1984’s “Sparkle In the Rain.”

simple minds - sisterfeelingscallUKLPBAThe normally complex bass patterns that Derek Forbes usually played, became a motorik staccato here, interlocking with the equally simple, propulsive patterns that Brian McGee was playing on the drums. Charlie Burchill’s guitar trades licks with McGee’s economical drum fills on the song’s  somewhat more dreamy chorus. How could I have overlooked this song’s brilliance for 33 years?! With the scales now fallen from my ears, I am in awe of this song! This is the unexpected delight of intense Rock G.P.A. listening. It can offer revelatory experiences to the most jaded of ears.

“League of Nations” was chosen as the B-Side of “The American;” making that single completely redundant to anyone who bought the album later. The brooding track brought forth one more burst of the foreboding African energy that drove “Veldt” two albums earlier. It also suggested that Simple Minds were also impressed by Byrne + Eno’s “By Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” which had been released earlier in the Spring of 1981. McGee relied here on rhythm boxes generating slo-mo rhumbas not unlike that at the coda of “Living Through Another Cuba” by XTC. The track gives validation to the talk that the album was rushed out with partially made songs given that Kerr’s vocals consisted entirely of the title and the word “repeat” used judiciously to create tension. The live recording from the Hammersmith Odeon performed on September 25th, 1981 revealed that Kerr had by then composed full lyrics for the track, leaving the original sounding like a demo in comparison.

The next track could have stood on the “Sons + Fascination” album with that material as it shared the tone of dark, introversion that typified that album. On “Careful In Career,” Kerr’s slowed, slurred vocals are one with the rest of the music bed. He was rarely mixed above the band on this album, but this track takes that trait to its fullest end. It also got Kerr off the hook from composing more lyrics! Instead, he slowed his performance to fit the vibe of the music bed. Burchill’s guitar attained a sound akin to harmonica on this track with a repetitive, cascading riff particularly coming close to the mouth harp.

McGee’s stuttering, lopsided beat suggested that forward movement was still possible even though the train was possibly damaged. This band was amazing in that bearing the influence of Krautrock, they studiously avoided simple using the same classic Klaus Dinger beat that others took repeatedly to the bank. The found ways to embellish the form with their own touches throughout the albums.

While six tracks make a long EP, they add up to a short album, so the decision was made to add an instrumental version of one of the double album’s tracks as a coda to side four. “The Sound In 70 Cities” was a magnificent choice for instrumental “filler” to round out the collection. It’s gratifying to hear the cow moo hook without it having to fight Kerr for dominance. It makes me think that whole instrumental versions of the early Simple Minds albums would be fun for the whole family. The level of accomplishment that they brought to the songs  instrumentally suggested that all of it would work without Kerr… if it had to.

The sounds on offer, like those of albums two through six, suggested that the tracks came together with the band together in a room, jamming. That they were gifted with as inventive a bass player as Derek Forbes, to build the foundations for all of these songs, was a luxury many other bands didn’t have. “Sons + Fascination/Sister Feelings Call” is a remarkable set showing the band having made several steps away from the intense, neurotic could of the preceding “Empires + Dance” yet not fully capitulating to conventional songwriting tactics. That would come later. For now, the “Sons/Sister” period showed a band on the cusp of their own movement. They encompassed a unique Kraurtoxy music style, heavy on trance-inducing rhythms and a compulsive repetition that gave the songs a fantastic cumulative power unattainable in the conventional toolbox of rock music. Excessive solos would have scuttled this ship forthwith.

I was dismayed that some pipe just didn’t get what they were engaging in. I recall the review of “Sons/Sister” in the pages of Trouser Press at the time of release where the reviewer took the band to task for having the temerity of having none of the songs under four minutes long! Their goals would not have been reached any other way. In fact, these albums might have been better in even longer edits. Imagine the power of these albums if each disc were 60 minutes long!

Next: …Dream in the dream with me

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 13]

  1. Echorich says:

    Thank you!! I have been waiting for some love for Wonderful In Young Life for ages. I’ll see your Roxy – Editions of You reference and raise you Bowie – Boys Keep Swinging !! WIYL makes you just get up and dance with its propulsive motorik beat. Forbes just absolutely throws it down here. And Burchill reaches deep with wonderful circular guitar lines comparable to McGeoch. The fade out will be picked up in ’82 by New Gold Dream and the next phase will be in full effect.
    Equally amazing is the polyrhythmic colossus that is League Of Nations. Here is more proof to me that artists were really listening to and ‘getting’ what Byrne and Eno were doing on Remain In Light and My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. Kerr’s vocals are appropriately eerie and otherworldly. McNeil’s short repeated synth melody only slightly bothers the otherwise focused rhythmic monster Forbes and McGee create. Listen to Houses In Motion or The Overload off of Remain In Light and you will find something to compare League Of Nations to.
    Careful In Career is a complex gem. McGee takes the Dinger Beat to another level, certainly. Kerr imbues the track with the darkness and trepidation the music requires. Again Birchill and McNeil combine to create a guitar/synth line that flies just above the drums propulsive beat. That CIC also ends in a fade out may belie the track’s unfinished state, but it sounds just right to these ears.
    Finally, wrapping up SAF/SFC with a bow, Sound In 70 Cities stands tall for me. It’s not filler, it’s a final reminder that Simple Minds was on a journey and they were eager to reach the next destination. The instrumental of one of SAF’s strongest tracks gives good evidence that the band was focusing in on where their next musical port of call would be. It gives attention to the nuances, the musicianship and the intent of a band so firmly on a roll and prepared for what was next.
    Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call is wholly a “5” for me – and it won’t be the only one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Great call on the Bowie. If it was a snake, it would have bit me! I agree that the 4 point scale is really restrictive, but how else can we have a Rock G.P.A.? And you were more thorough than I was in invoking “Houses In Motion” and “The Overload.” Speaking of the latter, it all coils tighter as were you aware that “The Overload” was a reaction to Joy Division? Apparently, Byrne + company had read enough reviews of Joy Division… but not actually heard the records… to create “The Overload” based on the critical impressions they had gotten through stories and reviews!


      • Echorich says:

        Yes, Monk I have read before that Byrne and Harrison were intrigued by the idea of Joy Division based on the eloquence and breath of reviews of the band by critics. The Overload is a pretty good approximation of JD and could easily be a song found on Closer. As I’ve mentioned before, Talking Heads were very impactful in the evolution of quite a number of British Post Punk groups – Simple Minds, Echo + The Bunnymen, Gang Of Four all either name checked or wore their influence on their sleeve. Fear Of Music and Remain In Light are truly Post Punk recordings. They glean some very impressive influences from world music, Krautrock, Art and Glam Rock to create a melange that is at once immediate and exhilarating.
        As for the 4 point scale, of course any G.P.A. must be based on this, it’s just that I think SM was already working on their Masters Thesis by the time they got to New Gold Dream. If ever there was a need for a Super Cum Laude (maybe it should be Super Summa Cum Laude – my Latin construction is lacking), here is your evidence.


  2. zoo says:

    That live version of “League of Nations” is pretty darn awesome.


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