New Warm Skin

The early 80s back catalogue of Simple minds continues to reveal new wonders to me. I’ve said before that my prejudices about Jim Kerr’s band were formed in the mid to late 80s when their wind swept stadium rock did nothing for me. But in recent years I’ve had my head turned, first by Theme For Great Cities and then it’s parent albums Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Over the  last eighteen months I’ve picked up various Simple Minds records second hand, albums and singles. Then JC at the Vinyl Villain undertook a weekly trawl through the singles and B-sides of the group released between 1980 and 1984, a series of blogposts and comments that educated and entertained me while filling in umpteen gaps. This one has really struck a chord with me in recent days…

New Warm Skin

Riding in a fantastic backbeat and then covered in New Wave synths, the playing on this, the synth lines and jagged guitar fills, all sound weirdly contemporary to me. Jim Kerr’s vocal stylings date it a little and it does sound in debt to 1977- not the ’77 of the Sex Pistols but the ’77 of Kraftwerk, Berlin, Iggy, Bowie, The Idiot and Low, Mittel Europa- but John Leckie’s production keeps it really fresh, remarkably so for a record made in 1980. New Warm Skin was a B-side, the flip to single I, Travel. There was no room for it on the album Empires And Dance, a record I found in a stack in a second hand shop last week.

For Just One Moment In Time

This is a song I keep going back to at the moment, listening and then skipping back to the start, the opener to Simple Minds’ 1981 album Sons And Fascination. Never was there I band for whom the phrase ‘I prefer their early stuff’ is so appropriate. Their early stuff is among the best music of the era (and their later stuff really isn’t). Empires And Dance and New Gold Dream are both superb too but this one is the one for me.

In Trance As Mission starts with a Derek Forbes bassline, one of many on the album that personify post-punk bass playing, along with a rigid drumbeat. The synths are central not merely providing colour or filling the sound out. Guitarist Charlie Burchill plays one note throughout, ringing with feedback. A long way to start an album, nearly seven minutes, Jim Kerr singing about moments, the holy back beat, trance as mission, trans American, white rocks, dreams, a new type of light, all the post-punk poetics. Religion maybe. The combined effect is thrilling, dramatic, forward thinking. Top stuff from a band who later on went for the money over the art but certainly paid their dues as far as art is concerned

In Trance As Mission

Sons And Fascination is a great album and a curious one too, packaged with a second disc of songs called Sister Feelings Call (which includes Theme For Great Cities, a song which most bands would kill to have written and which Kerr showed admirable restraint in deciding it didn’t need vocals). Not a traditional double album, an album with an extra disc of songs. Ideas galore, loads of ambition and songs to spare.

Theme For Great Cities

I have long held a dislike of Simple Minds, since the 1980s now I come to think of it. I think this is based on the bombastic, U2-lite material they released, the wind in the hair videos and the awful baggy grey suits they all seemed to wear.  I still think these are good reasons to dislike Simple  Minds by the way, I’m not going completely soft in middle age.

People have often, especially in recent years, tried to convince me that there is merit in their works and I can see that there is a charm to some of their mid-80s pop material. Don’t You Forget About Me is one of the components that makes The Breakfast Club an enjoyable film. However it would be stupid of me, really stupid and churlish, to deny that this song from 1980 is a bold and innovative piece of electronic pop music.

Theme For Great Cities