Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 32]

simple minds - reallifeOZDLXCDASimple Minds | Real Life – 1

When I saw the pre-release single “Let There Be Love” at a record show, I investigated, and bought one of the two CD singles. It was a big improvement on the band’s recent history, but I could have said that about “Metal Machine Music.” In the end, I wasn’t motivated to buy the album or further singles and when US copies of the album were plentiful [and cheap] in the bins, I didn’t bite. That I bought a copy at all was down to the sick collector in me who happened to be in Park Avenue Discs one day, maybe a year after its release. I spied the Australian “Limited Collectors’ Edition” which sported the white cover seen here and a second disc recorded live on their “Real Life Tour” at Glasgow’s Barrowlands on August 13, 1991. The die was cast. The money was spent. It was in my hands and now I had to listen to it.

simple minds - reallifeUK7AThe title track led the program off and it opened with ambient orchestral noodling that led me to fear the worst excesses of the “Street Fighting Years” era were still with us. Not quite. Once the track got underway, it was yet another chapter in the twisted tale of Simple Minds. It sported bombastic synths over an almost hip hop beat with Kerr still chasing after U2 while spinning a very different tale of desperate characters in difficult circumstances. I couldn’t help but think that this track had been seriously inspired by their recent cover of Prince’s “Sign ‘O The Times!” The inclusion of gangsters and space shuttles in the lyrical narrative makes that patently obvious. Given that the song was called “Real Life,” it almost functioned as an answer song to the Prince track with Kerr presenting a warts and all picture as the norm and not the cause for alarm that Prince presented. In the end, a derivative and overwrought track. Not what I wanted from this band.

simple minds - seethelightsUKCDABefore I could catch my breath came “See The Lights.” It was a dreaded mid-tempo ballad, my least favorite thing by any of my favorite bands. It sounded very MOR but against all odds, it really got its meat-hooks into me, but good. This is the kind of song that flows freely and effortlessly; as if it had been written in ten minutes. I’d bet money that I’m not far off of the mark. I’ll dispel any drama right now and declare this track the best song Simple Minds had committed to tape during the whole vexing ’85-’94 period.

I love the subtle bass line by The Pretenders’ Malcolm Foster and the inclusion of tubular bells works like a charm for me. I’ll even give the gospel backing choir a pass, and brother, that says a lot about how much I like this song! It’s a simple, direct sort of number that was really not the band’s stock in trade at this time, but having gone through the crucible of fire around this time what with people leaving the band like rats from a sinking ship and their manager unceremoniously booted into the cold after a dozen years, I suspect that Kerr and Burchill were trying their hands at any and everything, to see if anything would stick. The album that follows seems to give credence to this theory. Years later, I was heartened to see that this had in fact been the final Simple Minds US top 40 hit; squeaking in at number 40, but evidence of rare taste on the part of an America just about ready to fall hard for grunge. Sigh.

simple minds - let there be loveUKCD1A“Let There Be Love” was the single that was less than convincing up front. It was not quite as bombastic as “Real Life,” but it was still at least partially full of the hot air left over from “Street Fighting Years.” The fact that it sported the 1991 de riguer shuffle beat [which has never been used on a great song, in my opinion] dated it horribly from the beginning. The synthetic pennywhistle from “Belfast Child” was still slumming around on this song for the maximum in Celtic overkill, Oirish style. As was common in the final days of British chart rigging, this and all of the other singles from this album [which I waited over adecade to eventually buy] were ground out like sausages, whereby a handful of tracks that would make a single 12″ EP were doled out across as many formats as the record labels could release, before the BPI severely limited that gambit. Still, it makes for weird listening when an album was toploaded with its singles like “Real Life” had been. All of these were decent UK top 40 hits, with this one hitting as high as number six, but only one of them was a hit for me.

Next: …Deep cuts from Hell

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21 Responses to Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 32]

  1. nick says:

    i was as guilty as many in the days of multiple formats being issued to try and get it a higher chart placing- fortunately i was friends with a local store owner and i got a lot of them either free or cheap ! I still have the ‘Let There be Love box’ with 3 cds in – See the Lights is only good for ‘Theme for Great Cities 91’ which i still kinda like. The rest just isn’t good enough

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      nick – Though I still fall for “See The Lights,” and get why others might not [at the end of the day this is not what we want from Simple Minds, is it?] I will join you in a chorus of praise for its B-side, “Theme For Great Cities ’91,” which, with a title like that, could have been one of the most crass and meretricious exercises imaginable. Instead, the cut survived its facelift handily. I have to say that in all of its guises except one, it can withstand almost anything thrown at it.

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      • nick says:

        i’m guessing you mean that there Moby remix ?? Agree its not the best and could have been a lot better. ’91 does have some thundering drums on it though and is indeed a worthy update on the original

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          nick – I thought it survived Moby, who loves to snuff the life out of killer rhythm sections! But just just barely. At the end of the day, I can listen to the remixes, but nothing tops the original cut!

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          • Echorich says:

            Monk I like the brightness of TFGC91 and Burchill’s sharp guitar work, but I find those (are they real or synthetic?) vocal patches unnerving. I’m curious which TFGC remix/remodel really get’s up the Monk’s cilice….

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            • postpunkmonk says:

              Echorich – I need to pull the SM singles from their off rack storage and “make a playlist” and after doing so, I’ll report back on my findings. Maybe a month after this thread wraps to give the kids a break from all of this Minds-centric blather!

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  2. zoo says:

    The title track and “Let There Be Love” are the only songs from this album that I can remember anything about. Maybe because those are the first two songs on the album and I never could bring myself to listen any further? I’ll have to give this one a listen on Spotify today or tomorrow and see if anything else stands out.

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  3. Echorich says:

    Real Life is an album of songs put togther with a glue stick to make a release. See The Light is the only track that has any authenticity for these ears. The title track sounds like something that Eno wouldn’t even let into foyer of Slane Castle during the Unforgettable Fire recordings – an album, I will note that has all the hallmarks of U2 trying to be New Gold Dream Era Simple Minds. Done, ready to move on to the next debacle…

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Kerr has admitted that he and Charlie were at the end of their rope at the time and even questioned whether there could be an album with the Simple Minds name on it. Oh had only saner heads prevailed than the no doubt sycophants they played the demos for!

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  4. zoo says:

    I must be a glutton for punishment. I listened this yesterday afternoon in its entirety for the first time in 10 years or so. It reminds me a bit of Tears For Fears’ “Elemental” in that it’s a low key, quiet, poppy record following up a bombastic one. Both albums fail.

    As I listened, I scribbled my impressions of each song. Monk, I’ll share these after you finish your review. Since this is your blog, you should have the first word. :)

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – Nice call on the TFF. I think. I’ll take your word for it, since I’ve never heard the 3rd or 4th TFF albums!

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    • Echorich says:

      I have to say Zoo, that what I love about Elemental is the anger and dismissiveness Orzabal injected into the album. I have to admit to being a card carrying TFF fan. I think I even like the songs in their catalogue that even the band dismiss as errors in judgement.

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Echorich – So you really like “The Way You Are,” then?

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        • Echorich says:

          One of my favorite songs of theirs. I have yelled for it from the audience at their Big Chair, Seeds Of Love, Elemental and Raoul + The Kings Of Spain Tours. No joy of course.

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          • postpunkmonk says:

            Echorich – I remember seeing the import single at the time of release… maybe even a rare Japanese 12″, but I was never that into TFF and only ever heard it once it hit CD on the Richard Blade comp. Not the worst thing they’d done, but then, not every band tries out their new drum machine and gets “Blue Monday.”

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  5. Er … what happened to part 32? Or was that the country remix of “Don’t Yew Fergit Bout Me” that must be excised from time and space itself?

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