News From The Next World
- 'Toronto Sun' (Canada)
As though in
response to rumors of their death, Simple
Minds are coming out with Good News From The
Due for release
on Feb. 7, their first new material in four
years seems a logical next step in a career
built on hits like Alive And Kicking and Don't
You (Forget About Me).
Kerr, half of the core Simple Minds team (the
other being guitarist Charlie Burchill) was
in town yesterday promoting both the album
and a Feb. 23 gig at the Warehouse. The vision
behind the re-born Simple Minds consists of
the duo plus hired players, guitar rather
than keyboard-heavy arrangements, and a compact
In their absence
- they never did actually die - the Minds
were practising what Kerr now preaches: "90%
of making a record is songwriting," he says.
in a hotel chair in off-pink velvet pants
and a silk snake-skin shirt, Kerr may still
dress the rock star, but the gospel is considerably
toned-down. Unglamorous as it may sound, Kerr
says the time off was spent at work.
"To us, spending
time on songwriting was exotic. We have a
place in Scotland and it sounds so mundane,
but we work there Monday to Friday. And the
Friday night driving back, it's a vibe, you
feel like you've done your week's work. That's
the way we had started the band, put our life
band had to go through a lot before reaching
the point where the work-a-day week sounded
is that when you get a success, there's a
kind of industry that comes with that success.
We didn't do a good job of managing that industry
- the people around us, the people we chose
to have around us.
"We kind of
took our eye off the ball - there was less
and less time spent on the source. Without
the music, the tours and the videos and the
managers and the agents - they don't exist.
When it comes down to it, songwriting is what
it's all about."
artistic isolation excluded even his wife,
actress Patsy Kensit. "Even though the album
was done in August, I didn't play it to her
'til last week. She might have said something
like `Oh, I liked it better before, when...'
and I might have been influenced by her and
pulled back the tapes. We don't hide things
from each other, but we tend to go out and
do things rather than dwell on what's been
done." Accompanying the new philosophy is
the new stripped-down sound. "Our band had
come full circle. It was Charlie and I that
started the band and wrote all the songs that
got us a record deal.
'80s, when we worked as a quintet, the Simple
Minds trademark was the banks of keyboards
- now we found ourselves without a keyboard
player. We wanted to break the old habits,
so we said `Let's see if we can write some
songs that at their foundation - i.e., if
they work on just a piano or a guitar - we
know that they work."
It fits then
that a guitar band - even Simple Minds - should
tour large clubs rather than stadiums.
"In some places
we genuinely have to - we've been away a long,
long time. But that's fine, it's also exciting.
going to pretend that we're a brand new band
- we love the heritage and the experience
that we have - but all around us there is
a feeling of a new start."
From The Next World
- 'VOX' February 1995 (UK)
As the '80s
loomed, Simple Minds looked east while all
around them looked west. Post-punk Glasgow
was enjoying a love affair with America-from
Alex Harvey and his theatrical R&B to the
Love/Byrds/Motown obsession of Orange Juice,
the stars 'n' stripes was the favoured way
forward. But not for Simple Minds. They wore
mascara and mutant wedge haircuts and eclipsed
the New Wave's mandatory scratchy guitars
and blunt manifestos with synthesisers and
pretentious titles. Europe was their land
of plenty, where groups like Can and Kraftwerk
were broaching new frontiers with new technology.
By the time of 1980's Empires And Dance and
1981's Sons And Fascination/Sister Feeling
call, Simple Minds had given us club classics
'I Travel' and 'Love Song', and had mastered
the knack of making music that was both icily
aloof and naggingly passionate.
Then the '80s
kicked in and rock hit Simple Minds. They
turned their gaze to the west, to grandiloquent
anthems purpose-built for that American-derived
phenomenon, stadium rock. Live Aid, the Mandela
birthday bash, Live In The City Of Light,
'Belfast Child', Glittering Prizes 81,92:
these are the watersheds in the band's career,
numerically impressive (sales, chart positions)
but artistically void. Good News From the
Next World is Simple Minds' 13th album, begun
in their own studio in Perthshire in 1993
and finished in LA last summer. Jim Kerr and
Charlie Burchill, the remaining original members,
have created an album that has less of the
epic pomp of Once Upon A Time and Street Fighting
Years, but also fewer tunes. It's nine tracks
are almost uniformly stodgy and soulless.
Nuclea-fired drums, a fleet of guitars and
vainglorious vocals tough it out to see whose
teetering tower of power will crush the listener
The Band Played On', the drums pummel out
a titanic tattoo that helps distinguish it
from the preceeding '7 Deadly Sins' and the
succeeding 'My Life'. It's not much, but when
adrift in a sea of mediocrity, you grab what
you can. In the past, Simple MInds at least
furnished their breast-beating anthems with
head-battering riffs and refrains. You maybe
didn't like them, but you couldn't ignore
'Waterfront', 'Alive And Kicking' or 'Let
There Be Love'.
raises hopes as it slinks in on funky rhythms,
but quickly degenerates into AOR OTT Fab FM
schlock. 'Hypnotised' stands clear (and alone),
simple because it has some space and light
in which a melody glows dimly. 'She's A River'
is the single; Kerr sings things like "Shine
on" and "move on" over some shrill shriekings
from some LA session dames.
Minds looked east; then they looked west.
Now they just look down... at their navels.
(4 out of
Festival, Pilton 25th June 1995
By Roger Tavener
- Western Daily Press (UK)
The cred rating
was low. Simple Minds arrived with a label
saying "uncool since three months in 1980".
Some challenge for Jim Kerr and the lads.
for the Scotsmen, stadium gig specialists
for centuries. Sassenach land, Bannockburn
are remembered, hit 'em hard and early. Kerr
worked the stage and the audience like only
he can and did all the big numbers. Two tracks
in it was 'Hypnotised' and he had them under
Thirty million albums sold and sex kitten
actress wife, Patsy Kensit pouting to him
from the wings.
From The Next World
Laura Lee Davies
- Time Out (UK)
And then there
were two. Between them Jim Kerr and Charlie
Burchill (plus an impressive array of session
musicians) still manage to crank up the music,
but the effect of the whole is more about
feeling good than feeling spiritually redeemed.
In songs like 'Night Music' and 'Hypnotised',
they return to the tighter, more inspired
form of earlier works circa 'New Gold Dream'
and 'Sparkle In The Rain'.
From The Next World
John Harris -
Melody Maker (UK)
The sound will
soon boom around the cosmos. It approximates
the noise that would be made if the entire
contents of a music shop were strapped to
an Empire transport ship from Star Wars, while
a new age vicar hollered millennial thoughts
into a 2000 watt public address system mounted
on the ramparts of the Death Star. It is the
new Simple Minds album, clear the way.
Like it's distinctly
post-pies creators, 'good News From The Next
World' is an ungainly creature, so stuffed
with embellishments that the average stereo
can barely contain it. Whether it's swerving
into INXS-type uberfunk ('Great Leap Forward'),
paeans to rumpo ('Hypnotised'). At least one
close relative of U2's 'Even Better Than The
Real Thing' ('7 Deadly Sins'), or something
approaching stadium gospel ('And The Band
Played On'), it consistently conjures up images
of crazed technicians yelling "More echo!
More overdubs" as the tape stretches to breaking
as with most Simps products - 'Waterfront',
'Don't You...' and (possibly) 'Sanctify Yourself'
expected - it's a monumental folly, built
on such weedy foundations that the most half-hearted
critical attack could break it into 1,000
measly pieces. For all it's cod-Wagnerian
vastness, there are no tunes. This, Lord Jim
and Viscount Charlie should be reminded, is
kind of important.
And the lyrics!
"They say that every heaven's got a thousand
rooms/So take me on a freedom ride/My heart
is like a hunter's in the silent moon/My nerves
feel electrified." sings Jim. "Shake the ghost
within you/Get up, meet the rising sun," he
continues. Most of this cut-and -paste doggerel
translates, according to the press release,
as 'we are coming up to the end of a decade,
a century and a millennium and everything
is changing very fast, but sometimes the speed
of things and the pace of change is frightening',
Either that or 'Love ya, Patsy'.
So, 'Good News'
plainly isn't. It's the sound of two ageing,
increasingly porky geezers trying to turn
on the old empty magic and bring a wee bit
of drama to the lives of people who once drove
XR3is and lived on Barratt estates. And there's
the rub: the cars have been sold, the houses
repossessed and, like Jim says, the world's
move on. The folly, if I'm not mistaken, will
From The Next World
Donna Roger -
CMJ New Music (US)
that, for a band that has been around for
over 15 years, Simple Minds can prove on their
12th album that they have remained on the
cutting edge and evolved with the times.
which they've managed to hang onto, despite
the winds of fashion, is their ability to
write a solid, hook-filled song such as "She's
A River," the first single off Good News....
"Night Music" recalls the band's early-'80s
synth-pop sound, "The Band Played On" rocks
it up with lots of guitar, and "Hypnotized"
lends itself to an intoxicating rhythm that
wraps itself around you and pulls you in.
still hang on to key elements of their signature
sound, including lush keyboard accompaniment
and choppy sharp percussion. Time has taken
no toll on frontman Jim Kerr's voice, which,
on "7 Deadly Sins," sounds just as vibrant
and strong as it did on New Gold Dream.
The good news
for Simple Minds fans is that by the sound
of these nine new songs, the band plans to
continue playing on and on.
From The Next World
'Encore' - July
There may only
be two of the original members left - Jim
Kerr and Charlie Burchill - but the sound
is still as big, as shrieking and as utterly
pompous as it ever was. In other words it's
exactly what you'd expect from the latter
day Deep Purple.
From The Next World
- www.canoe.ca (Canada)
One of the by-products
of the "do-it-yourself" ethic so prevalent
among the new mainstream (i.e. what started
out as "alternative rock") is a decline in
the influence of the autocratic producer.
For better or for worse, more and more albums
are simply being allowed to stand or fall
on their own merits.
is not the case with Good News From The Next
Reduced to a
duo of frontman Jim Kerr and guitarist/keyboardist
Charlie Burchill, there's an underlying sense
of panic throughout their first new music
in almost four years. How else to explain
the decision to bring back producer Keith
Forsey, the man behind the band's biggest
hit, (Don't You) Forget About Me, a song about
which Kerr, in particular, has repeatedly
expressed ambivalence, since the band had
no part in writing it? What Forsey has done
is saddled Simple Minds with the most intrusive
production work of their career. Now, there'd
be nothing wrong with stripping away the band's
trademark keyboards in pursuit of a more adventurous
sound, but adventurousness has little to do
with the way this album sounds. In a misguided
attempt to commercialize the group's sound,
Forsey has utilized slabs of "heavy" guitar
and the kind of ludicrously big drum sound
we haven't heard since the mid-'80s.
Worse, he seems
to have brought out every excess Kerr has
ever succumbed to, from melodramatic phrasing
to heartfelt but hopelessly cliched lyrics.
It's to their credit that Kerr and Burchill
manage to occasionally transcend this detritus,
notably on Criminal World and Hypnotised.
Let's hope next time they entrust their future
to someone more than just a proven hit-maker.
(2 out of
From The Next World
The War Against
For a few minutes,
a few times, in the semi-cylindrical confines
of Boston's Avalon nightclub, on a winter
Saturday night not long ago, time stopped
and a decade digit fluttered, for just a moment,
to 8. The opening notes of "Don't You (Forget
About Me)", from the stage, were suddenly
also coming out of the one functioning speaker
of the radio in my parents mucus-green 1970
Toyota Corona, the inescapable soundtrack
of my 1985. But as Kerr, Burchill and their
new accomplices ambled cheerfully through
the song, I discovered that it was not exactly
the same 1985 I lived through ten years ago.
In the one I remember, "Don't You (Forget
About Me)" was resented as the commercial
sell-out of a great band, as the watered-down,
soundtrack-pop, mall-ready adulteration of
a band whose crashing Sparkle in the Rain
grandeur belonged to the shadowy New Wave
(turning "alternative") elite. As "Pretty
in Pink" destroyed the Psychedelic Furs the
following year, "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
destroyed Simple Minds.
them play the song to a packed 1995 nightclub,
though, revealed a shifted view of loyalties
and values. From a commercial sell-out, "Don't
You (Forget About Me)" has somehow been transformed
for me into something universal, a symbol
of a great time in pop music, and a classic
that also transcends its time the same way
it transcends the exact personnel makeup of
the band. The people who originally latched
onto it without knowing anything about the
band have long ago forgotten about it (top
40, as a whole, has a pathetically short memory),
and into that void the band's "true" fans
have started to return, retaking the song
for themselves, relegitimizing it posthumously.
As the song, and in part the band, returns
to obscurity, those of us who thrive on obscurity
have shown up again to see if their old place
in our hearts ought to be cleared out again
for them. And as, midway through the show,
they explode into "Waterfront", the joyous
acceptance of the crowd is palpable.
already made up my mind well before the concert.
It took about thirty seconds of hearing "She's
a River", the opening track of Good News from
the Next World, on the radio, to convince
me that the Simple Minds deserved a new chance.
Once I put the album on it didn't take more
than three songs to get me smiling, and nodding
"Yes, the Simple Minds are back." I'm nostalgic
by nature, and always eager for the "they're
back" feeling, but this band did have some
hurdles to reacceptance. Their last decade
had left me completely unmoved, completely
untouched by the impersonal expanse of their
music, by the way their songs had come to
seem directed at the concrete, metal and Astroturf
of arenas, not even at the people filling
And not all
of that tendency is gone from Good News from
the Next World. This is not a Sparkle in the
Rain redux, and the big guitar chords and
synth washes here were very much a part of
the Simple Minds phases I wasn't interested
in, as well. The backing vocals on "She's
a River" are reminiscent of the wailing accompaniment
way back on "Alive and Kicking". On Sparkle
in the Rain the band's early art-synth leanings
still occasionally poked through, and you're
pretty unlikely to detect any of them here.
What's been reestablished, though, in my opinion,
is a sense of balance, or perhaps more precisely,
of scale. The production (courtesy, ironically
enough, of "Don't You (Forget About Me)" producer
Keith Forsey) puts the music back in a much
more personal setting. The drums sound more
like drums, and less like ancient cannons;
the guitars don't sound like instruments constructed
as Texas State Fair publicity stunts; the
synthesizers sound like musical elements,
not Valkyries swooning. And, most of all,
Jim Kerr's voice is almost completely stripped
of effect, with the result that this album
rides confidently on the warm tones and careful
details of his singing, where for a while
he was just another element of the music striving
for something ever bigger and perhaps forever
unreachable. It's notable (and here is another
point of similarity with Richard Butler) how
good a singer Kerr has become. Even back when
I really liked the Simple Minds the first
time, I'd never have listed his technical
singing ability among their particular strengths,
but somewhere in the process of lasting more
than 15 years in rock music, he's become quite
an impressive and appealing vocalist.
If this album
is still missing something, compared to Sparkle
in the Rain, it's a whole killer song. None
of the nine here stick in my head in their
entirety the way "Speed Your Love To Me" did
the very first time I heard it, nor the way
"Waterfront", "Street Hassle", "The Kick Inside
of Me" and "Shake Off the Ghosts" have come
to. This album has its high points instead
in individual moments: the drum entrances
to "She's a River" and "Nightmusic", the falsetto
vocal bridge into the chorus of "Hypnotised"
(the part where he sings "I remember the look
in your eyes"), the slashing guitar on "Great
Leap Forward", the grumbling bass of "And
the Band Played On", the mechanical drum-machine
undercurrents of "My Life" and "Criminal World",
the insect-whine backing vocals of "This Time".
If no one song quite captivates me as a song,
conversely none are without qualities to recommend
them, and the aggregate experience is certainly
my second favorite Simple Minds album, and
a worthy contender for a short list of great
and, to me, welcomed, comebacks.
Paul Cole - 'Evening
Mail' 24th March 1995 (UK)
Simple Minds are going back to basics as they
prepare for the end of the millennium - and
an uncertain time of change.
The band you
see tonight at the NEC is a very different
animal than the electo-pop experiment that
launched Jim Kerr & Co on an unsuspecting
It's a progression
echoed in the Good News From The Next World
album, which sees Simple Minds stripped down
in pomp and circumstance.
"In a sense
we have completed a full circle," says
Jim. "The band started off with just
Charlie and I when we were kids.
became a big keyboard band - we were a collective
band in the old traditional sense - but over
the years, people have come and gone.
stripped it down again and have gone back
to being a guitar band. I think on the last
album, we tried to emulate the sounds of old
whereas on the new record we knew it just
wouldn't work. We had to change and had to
make the economy of the situation work. Times
that we've gotton rid of a lot of baggage
that the musical tradition of the band carried.
There's much less keyboards than you'd normally
Jim admits that
he's at a crossroads of sorts, without firm
ideas as to where the band should go from
approaching the end of the millennium,"
he says. "I think that at such times
there's often turbulence and great excitement
accompanied by fear of confusion. People begin
to question where they stand in the greater
scheme of things.
terms, I've reached a certain point in my
life whcih is both exciting and yet uncertain."
a clue in the new album track And The Band
Played On. Jim's lyrics read: 'The old days
they're the dying days - and the new day's
talk about the good old days," says Jim.
"But we're living now. Like most people,
I've been through some pretty heavy things
but I have no bitterness. I really feel that
no matter what the times are, they are our
Life After Death
are back from the brink with a new album and
an undented determination to play venues the
size of Brent Cross... and fill them
- 'Vox' April 1995 (UK)
You think of
Jim Kerr as a man given to wearing big girl's
blouses and running hither and thither across
stadium stages, posturing before millions.
You associate him with all manner of fellow
Celtic breast-beaters, ranging from U2 to
Runrig. You can only picture him sharing a
stage to feed Africans or rebuild Japan. But
here he is, getting up on stage to raise the
band's profile in America.
this for a bill?" he asks, seeing the
positive side of the economy-sized, 12-acts-a-night
US tour that SImple Minds have just completed
of a bunch of the most influential college
radio stations. "There were the Black
Crowes, Grant Lee Buffalo, Green Day, Live,
Richard Butler's new band Love Spit Love,
The Go-Go's, Jesus And Mary Chain, Hole, Tom
Jones, The Cranberries. Seal.... and us!"
he is today, in collar-to-heel crushed velvet,
it's difficult to imagine Kerr backstage cadging
a spliff from Chris Robertson, sharing a joke
with William Reid or discussing Plato with
Courtney Love. So what did an audience drawn
by the desire to see and hear the latter make
of an old gimmer like... "Like Me?"
Kerr interrupts, grinning.
was going to say Tom Jones.
says Kerr after a snort of disbelief,"
audiences in America seem to take it all in
their stride; they see it as just music...
You don't get any of that 'Tom Jones? He's
an old cunt, so what's he doing coming on
after the Mary Chain?'. Bizarre programming,
admittedly, but it worked."
It was, he maintains,
both liberating and exciting to be playing
live without all the pressures of The Big
Tour. "A one-song soundcheck, then on
you went, did 20 minutes and were off again.
Play for any longer and they would pull the
plug on you. Initially, I was very wary of
the time element thing, but I ended up thoroughly
enjoying myself. Twenty minutes is perfect,
really. You just play all the good ones and
Back in the
top-seller rack of the nation's record stores
with 'Good News From The Next World' - his
and Charlie Burchill's first album since 1991's
poorly received 'Real Life' - Kerr must feel
relieved that a policy of subtly repositioning
Simple Minds appears to have worked. But he
also accepts cheerfully the point that, for
many music-buyers, the band will be forever
associated with pomp, ceremony and stadium
theatrics, and he with the image of a Bono
made us go the route we did," he shrugs.
"It was what we wanted and I offer no
apologies for it. And so we can't be surprised
at people's perceptions of us, given that
the only time they may ever have seen us on
TV was against a backdrop of millions at Live
Aid or Mandela Day." In retrospect, he
admits, things could have been handled differently.
"I mean, SImply Red play stadiums as
well, but you never see any live footage of
them doing so - they're always in clubs or
Simple Minds' conspicuous dispaly of their
'80s success to "a pickpocket mentality
- take it cos it's there to be taken".
He adds "We'd done all our growing up
as a band on the big European festival circuit.
No one really knew who we were to start with,
but getting on to the bill gave you the chance
to play in front of these vast crowds of people.
We'd just go on out there and try to steal
back home, meanwhile,
ska and Mod were in the process of being replaced
on radio by Adam And The Ants, Spandau Ballet
and Duran Duran... "So we couldn't get
in the Top 40 at all - in fact, we didn't
have a hit single until we released our fifth
album," Kerr recalls. "But what
we did have was a music that just seemed to
work in front of those huge audiences. So
when eventually we had the chart success to
play such places in our own right, we naturally
did. And I was very wary of the likes of Paul
Weller and Joe Strummer for not going through
that same door. Maybe they though it was hack,
or maybe they were just afraid. I don't know.
They'd propbably have their own rationales
For Simple Minds,
the headiest heights of fame were triggered
by the success of 1985's 'Don't You (Forget
About Me)' which was recorded for the soundtrack
of 'The Breakfast Club' and became a US Number
One. Produced by Keith Forsey - who didn't
work with the band again until his involvement
with the current LP - it's the only single
they ever released written by an outside team.
And to rub their noses in it further, Billy
Idol had already turned it down when it was
presented to them...
sheer hatred or disdain we feel for it,"
says Kerr, referring to contemporaneous reports
that he and Burchill loathed the song. "We
felt guilty that we didn't like it more and
a bit fearful, perhaps, of where it was taking
us. That said, the follow-up 'Alive And Kicking'
reached Number Two in America and the LP did
great - even though we didn't put 'Don't You..'
on it and it's said we lost a million sales
as a result. But really, it represented just
a day in the studio. We were hardly on the
with Forsey comes after a period of dubious
fortunes for the band. Kerr admits that their
US record company of the time, bullish after
such significant chart success, was nonplussed
by the decision to follow up with first a
live album and then one that included songs
about Belfast, Nelson Mandela and other such
conscience-on-your-sleeve topics. "Again,
our choice entirely, but sometimes you don't
realise how much you're drifting creatively.
You're so busy making the most of your success
that you go on auto-pilot."
shed all remaining band members and replaced
them with all session players in time for
'Real Life', the two reamin disappointed with
the album. It was ruined by over-production,
they feel, and essentially uninspired.
lazy in our writing," Kerr admits. "It
was a case of: 'If it sounds impressive, let's
leave it at that.'"
So the impetus
for 'Good News From The Next World' was to
re-engage with the nuts and bolts of composition,
find a freshness and vitality more reminiscent
of the band's output of 1984 to 1986, before
stereotyping had decreed Simple Minds to be
the XR3i-driving young professional's choice.
Not that the
resultant album is modest in scale or acoustic
in tone; its nine tracks propel themselves
forward with all the reticence of a joyrider
behind the wheel of a turbo-charged juggernaunt.
But as the very annoying voice in that Vauxhall
Tigra ad says, it's fun, if you like that
sort of thing.
will be performing it live in Sheffield, Manchester,
Birmingham and London in March. The set will
last longer than 20 minutes. And yes, of course
Simple Minds will be playing stadiums.
From The Next World
years on from their last studio album, Jim
Kerr and Charlie Burchill have created a powerful
new work from a revised musical perspective;
a guitar-driven mix against the range of human
"We knew we
wanted an album that unquestionably said that
this was the first step on a new journey".
Arena 20th March 1995
time as Simple Minds start their national
tour in Sheffield
- 'Daily Telegraph' 22nd March 1995 (UK)
Rock, that huge, lumbering beast we thought
had been exiled to the sports stadiums of
the American Midwest is alive and almost kicking,
returning, not to wreak a terrible revenge,
but merely to fill hearts of the ordinary
fan with pleasure and a yearning for pop values
in a phrase, are back. Almost four years on,
the band, now condensed to a twosome of vocalist
Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill plus
assorted musicians, have issued a new album
and embarked on the sort of globe-spanning
trek - 25 countries, a million paying customers
- that was once the expected inheritance of
every successful British rocker. Fortunately
for Kerr and Burchill, they still speak a
brand of musicial Esperanto that engages with
an international audience. Like their Celtic
comrades U2, they build a solid rock structure
- giant blocks of sand, the big, brash gesture
- which retains an appeal beyond this isle,
a trick more recent pretenders to the UK rock
crown have found difficult to pull off.
Arena, a dream-like cavern of space was of
suitable scale to hold the group's show -
a 90 minute odyssey plus encores - an almost
complacently self-assured affair lit in stunningly
dramatic fashion, high in theatricality but
shomehow cold. If the crowds response was
occasionally overpowering, the five players
seemed all too distant.
The music, too,
had, for the most part, a grey uncertainty
- a plodding counterpoint to the fireworks
of light that seemed, at one point, to transform
the auditorium into the nave of immense rock
cathedral. The worshippers were suitably drawn
Until the fifth
tune, Hypnotised, the canvas was like a thick,
well worn tapestry. But, as Burchill's spearing
slide vividly recreated the album cut, the
following song, The American - a very early
single with a swaggering, Latin refrain -
added verve to the vigour.
Day and Belfast Child served as reminders
that the Simple Minds repertoire is not bereft
of a well-honed intelligence, bu the mainstream
anthems - Waterfront and Stand By Love - had
the ponderous predictability of an earlier
chords, massive guitar figures, relentless
power drumming once stood for muscular potency;
now they are macho over-statements. Even Kerr's
balletic choreography could not subvert the
sub-text - this is men's music in an era when
masculinity has been discredited.
There was a
nod elsewhere as the band trotted back to
acknowledge the applause with a version of
the Velvet Underground's White Light/White
Heat, but every sinister, neurotic nuance
had been excised, and quickly it was back
to the humping bravado of Don't You (Forget
About Me). And in some ways that is the band's
fundamental problem - too literal, desperately
short on irony.
That said, while
numerous thoughtful songsmiths from north
of the border - the Bible, Danny Wilson and
others - have stuttered in the years since
Simple Minds emerged, the two Glaswegians
appear to have concocted a commerical formula
with its own constitunency, whose members
just ignore the sell-by date.
Sinking fast with
no chance of salvation.
Forget About Us
'Grooves' - 22nd
January 1995 (UK)
They sell millions
of records, live the millionaire lifestyle
and lead singer Jim Kerr is married to actress
Patsy Kensit. After three years away, they're
back with a new single, She's A River, which
is out now and a new album, Good News From
The Next World out on January 30th.
Jim Kerr and
guitarist Charlie Burchill talk to Grooves
about the Simple life.
a long lay-off, how did you find approaching
a new LP?
were 3 years away from putting new music out
and, as a result, you get to experience a
touch of normal existence, which gives you
a chance to examine things. And I'm glas it
happened because it led us to where we are
now. But it was like I had to make a new start,
I had to bump some things down to basics.
The new LP
see's a return to the basic line-up of yourself
and Charlie. How did that come about.
Minds began as Charlie and I when we were
kids at school. Through the '80s we were a
collective - a band in the old, traditional
sense. Looking at our last record, Real Life,
one of it's sins was the fact that we were
afraid to admit that it really became Charlie
and I again.
From The Next World is much more guitar based
than your previous outings, why?
always associated Simple Minds with being
a big keyboard band, which is very limiting.
On the last album we tried to emulate the
sounds of old, but we realised it wouldn't
work. We were on a sinking artistic ship,
unless we faced up to the fact we a guitar
band now - guitarist and singer.
do you think the emphasis on guitars has made
to the feel of the new LP?
whole feel is now more urgent. It gives us
this energy that we needed. As a player, I
had to face up to the fact that we're now
a guitar and a voice, and I had better make
the most of it. It kind of focused us to really
push hard at what we do.
of the greatest hits LP 'Glittering Prize'
closed the door on an old era. Did you feel
knew we wanted an album that unquestionably
said this was the first step on a journey.
We needed an album that really said what it
was, called a spade a spade, proclaimed the
nature of the beast. There's not a bit of
this and a bit of that on the album!
does the future hold for Simple Minds?
future's a precarious thing. A lot of people
think it's all downhill from here, and there's
a lot of evidence to support that. But for
me, it's kind of hard to believe that. It's
the questions that are still to be asked that
appeal to me, the songs to be written and
the life to be led.
Dublin 17th March 1995
'The Sun' 19th
March 1995 (UK)
are back on tour after three years - and their
music is as brilliant as ever.
Jim Kerr and
Charlie Burchill went down a storm at The
Point, Dublin. They tore into a selection
of their greatest hits including Waterfront
and Belfast Child.
from their album Good News From The Next World
went down just as well at the sell-out gig.
fans with his energetic performance during
a superb two-hour extravaganza.
From The Next World
they know how to thrill
- 'Q' Magazine February 1995 (UK)
it could easily be said, should be big, bold
and full of primary colours. It should sweep
"through space, through time" as
Jim Kerr sings, like a comet. It should, perhaps,
"feel like a runaway train", even,
if we're in a reckless, devil-may-care, gung
ho sort of mood, it could last "from
dusk to dawn". This is where Simple Minds
They're a cartoon
rock band, whiter than white, dinosaurs with
attitude; they're Emerson, Lake & Palmer
without the stage hooverer; they're a Soundgarden
eager to please; or they're the bare-chested,
rousing arousing trobadours Neil Diamond seems
to think he is. This is a splendid state of
affairs for those on the up, but for a band
like Simple Minds, commercially and (before
now) artistically on the wane, it's not far
from them becoming the first Wishbone Ash
of the next century, plodding on for the benefit
of bachelor blokes with beards and being absolutely
massive in Moldova.
as recently as August 1991 in fact, Simple
Minds played Manchester City's Maine Road
ground: for all it counts now, it could have
August 1971. The workhouse isn't beckoning
quite yet, their last album, Real Life, despite
a sloppy Stephen Lipson production, managed
25 weeks in the British album charts. A decade,
though, has passed since their last proper
hit in America and that country is surely
forever lost to them. Simple Minds' universe
is contracting. They saluted the enw age and
it sniggered in thier faces. They could make
Blood On The Tracks or Searching For The Young
Soul Rebels and nobody would take them seriously,
apart from themselves. So what then do they
do? It's obvious really.
When Don't You
(Forget About me), written and produced by
Keith Forsey, turned down by Billy Idol, went
to Number 1 in America, Kerr churlishly disowned
song and production. Now comes Good News From
The Next World and it's produced by Keith
Forsey. Hip hip hooray, for Forsey has the
delicate touch Kerr needs when he's trying
to turn everything into the hob-nailed Waterfront
as you suspect he'd secretly like to do. Forsey
seems to have a better grasp of Simple Minds'
back catalogue and the essence of their truly
outstanding songs - Factory, Up On The catwalk,
I Travel, Sanctify Yourself - than Kerr himself.
There are nine
tracks, all within a minute's length of each
other. There are no covers, no remixes, no
unlistenable codas (oh that The Stone Roses
were so wise) and no flab apart from their
own, occasional pomposity. Grunge, rap, hip
hop, new country or indeed any musical developments
since Journey's career began to flag have
bypassed the group. In Simple Minds' case
and in their case alone, this is definitely
a good thing. Good News From The Next World
cuts out the things Simple Minds do badly:
gone are the silly flirtations with musics
world and Celtic, as, mercifully, are Kerr's
more worldly lyrical concerns. Bizarrely,
they're sounding English these days, God knows
how or why. There are no outlandish experiments,
Simple Minds were never flexible enough for
that; instead, they've elected to concentrate
on what they do best - trying to thrill, and
to this end most of the keyboards have gone,
along with some lesser Minds, to leave just
Kerr and sidekick from Life In A Day times,
Charlie Burchill, plus a plethora of sessioners
including Sting's drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta.
They understand one fundamental thing about
rock: if it's exciting, that's enough. Others
have slightly better tunes, most have better
lyrics and the Minds are looking a touch old
and porky these days, but it's hard to imagine
anyone so tub-thumpingly enthusiastic about
breast-beating. This, in any parlance, is
She's A RIver
begins the album at a fair old gallop and
in a sense it's the key to what Simple Minds
are about. The lyrics are daft tripe about
an alleged muse, but the feel, the musical
twists, the hints of Promised You A Miracle
make the whole much greater than the sum of
its parts, genuinely exciting (if not moving)
of course, yet never out of control or self-indulgent.
It's dervish music made for wheeling around
to and it's what seasonsed group watchers
would expect and hope for.
7 Deadly Sins
("Blood is sweet, like a deep red river")
and Criminal World ("I need you tonight")
are close relatives of the opener, indeed
no song is overdifferent to the rest, but
nobody ever accused Simple Minds of being
They Might Be Giants and a unified feel never
had to mean stodge.
what limited chances Good News From The Next
World takes, tend to work. Hypnotised is perhaps,
after all this time, after all these years,
their best song to date. the lyrics aren't
down to the usual standard and the sonstant
refrain of "I still remember the look
in your eyes" is delivered with what
even Kerr's old nemesis, P.W.Botha, would
recognise as love - touchingly, Kerr and patsy
Kensit are still married, three years on.
The melody is gorgeous. Forsey gives Burchill's
guitar room to gently further the cause. It's
almost a ballad and they don't sound out of
their depth. It still excites, but in whole
new ways, similar to one-time equals sellers
U2 did with One.
to benefit from a more Spartan approach is
And The Band Played On. The brittle semi-funk
suggests that the band playing might just
be the current incarnation of The Rolling
Stones, only with significantly more swagger.
It's also the only point, possibly in his
whole career, where Kerr has sounded sexy.
There are even a few strong lyrical ideas.
Of the remainder,
Night Music is a spightly call to arms which
even paul Gascoigne might spot as a sex analogy;
My Life is intricate old-style SImple Minds,
always seemingly about to burst into The American;
Great Leap Forward is a rather weedy filler,
there seemingly to make everything else sound
better, but the closing This Time is superb,
full of bangs, crashes and has Burchill's
finest moments before collapsing in a crumpled,
It's back to
basics for the new Simple Minds and, of course,
they get it right more often than John Major.
What will become of them? Time has moved on
too much, even with this record, for the stadiums
to be revisited. Maybe Kerr and Burchill will
believe that less is more or maybe if Simple
Minds aren't globally massive there is little
point in them at all. Whatever, they sound
like a band on their first album discovering
the joy of making music, but they have the
acumen of what they really are, a band on
their 14th. They're hardly indispensable,
they have as little to say as Whigfield, yet
they know how to thrill, and life is always
somehow slightly better when they're around.
Good News From The Next World is as good as
they'll ever get. It's a scream, in the best
(4 out of
NEC 24th March 1995
Jim is simply
- 'Evening Mail' 25th March 1995 (UK)
encored last night with their biggest hit
'Don't You (Forget About Me')' - a message
their Midland fans had taken to heart.
It was the band's
first visit to Birmingham in four years, and
they were given a heroes' welcome by the near
capacity NEC crowd.
The show's ear-splitting
volume shook the rafters, making it one of
the loudest concerts there since heavy metal
From the opening
'She's A River', the pace rarely dropped with
singer Jim Kerr darting at breakneck speed
around the 60ft wide stage.
front man also used a specially constructed
walkway to get nearer the fans and slap some
Songs from the
new album 'Good News From The Next World'
proved popular, but it was hits like 'Waterfront'
and 'Sanctify Yourself' that were the real
Toronto 23rd Febraury 1995
Ira Band - 'The
Star' 24th February 1995 (Canada)
If you hadn't
checked your ticker stub, you could be forgiven
for forgetting it was really Simple Minds
on stage last night at RPM Warehouse.
you forget about me," they sang defiantly
on their 1985 smash hit of the same name.
But with a resolute U-turn in their musical
approach, dropping most of their synthesizers
in favour of a chunkier, guitar-driven groove,
singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill
- the two remaining original members of the
quintet - seemed to be asking their fans to
at least forget about the band's old sound.
For the first
half hour of the show, no coaxing was necessary
on that front, not with Burchill's screaming
riffs and a thundering rhythm section. It
wasn't as if a sense of familiarity was entirely
missing from the performance. New songs such
as "And The Band Played On", "Criminal
World", "She's A River" and
"Great Leap Forward" were rooted
in the same dense swirls of lush atmospherics
that defined so musch of the Scottish group's
music during most of the '80s.
the band's earlier work was graced by the
juxtapostion of chilly synthesizers and singer
Kerr's warm, impassioned vocals, the effect
of newly introduced, raucous guitars actually
dampened some of Kerr's powerful wailing and
created a rather cacophonous sonic climate.
Still, it was
Kerr who anchored the concert, sustaining
the lesser known material - which dominated
the first half of the show - and acting as
a sort of cheerleader when the sell-out crowd
came to life mid-way through the evening on
the anthemic "Don't You (Forget About
Me)" and "Waterfront".
On the other
hand, he cut a decidedly petulant pose, stopping
the proceedings abruptly at one point because
of a perceived disturbance at the front of
and guitarist Pete Townsend once observed
in a 1982 Rolling Stone interview that the
use of the guitar in rock music would be replaced
with synthesizers by the early '90s. Given
last night's show, not only has ol' Pete been
proved radically wrong, it may be a good idea
to dump any shares you currently hold in electronic
From The Next World
American press release - November 1994 (US)
good, I'm a bit cracked, I feel good."
It's about midnight
- on a phone call from Madrid - and Simple
Minds frontman Jim Kerr is reflecting about
the band's first album of new material in
three years and their first for Virgin Records
in the U.S., Good News From The Next World.
It's a powerful
album about trying to keep the faith alive
- and the challenge of self-renewal - in the
face of disillusionment and dread. And Simple
Minds sound adamant, even defiant, playing
and singing with a do-or-die urgency.
You can detect
it right away in the new musical approach.
Partner and guitarist Charlie Burchill spearheads
a sound that instantly stands apart from the
group's previous albums. "There's about
90-95% guitars and the rest is keyboards,"
says Burchill, pointing out that producer
Keith Forsey (with whom they last worked on
their classic "Don't You Forget About
Me") ignites the guitar-driven mix even
Sparks fly on
Good News From The Next World. It's lyrics
are bold, the rhythms swift, the vocals resolute,
with Kerr's phrasings as ineventive as ever.
air that led me to it, she's the wind that
sucked me through it," sings Kerr on
the opening track and it's rhythmically driving
first single, "She's A River." It's
a song - sensual and dangerous all at once,
finding it's protagonist being driven irrationally
but seductively by what Kerr calls "the
muse" - that sets the stage for the rest
of the album, which zooms in on temptation
("7 Deadly Sins"), decadence ("Criminal
World"), redemption ("Great Leap
Forward", "My Life"), faith
("This Time"), and love against
all the odds in the deep soulful grooves of
hear the strange night music, it's a warning
signal there's a bridge to cross," Kerr
reveals in "Night Music," a pivotal
song whose theme is central to Good News From
The Next World: the need to find the strength
and courage to move on to the uncharted next
level. In "And The Band Played On,"
Kerr sings "The old days are the dying
days and the new day's just begun." These
lyrics apply to not only the LPs spiritual
quest, but underline how Simple Minds have
faced the future as artists, with their fighting
spirit intact. As Kerr intones in "My
Life": "A red guitar can get you
far but you still know how to fight."
I'm not always Happy Jack," says Kerr.
"We're three years away from putting
new music out and playing live. As a result,
you get to experience a youch of a normal
existence, which gives you a great chance
to examine things. And I'm glad that it happened,
because it led us to where we are now. But
during that time, there was a lot of looking
in the mirror and I don't really like to do
that. For a period, I did lose a lot of confidence
and I kind of cracked. It was probably for
about a year. Depression is a much over-used
word now, but something went on. It was almost
like I had to make a new start - I had to
bump some things down to the basics. It's
the only time that's happened in my life.
to a lot of people, I don't have a grudge
to bear." Kerr adds. "Things have
gone pretty smoothly for me. But it's not
those kind of surface things I'm talking about;
maybe it's about having to face up to the
ensuing adulthood. Coping with that, trying
to deal with that, and the next part of my
life. You've covered so much ground and you
go through all those big questions. I'm glad
to see that just like it came, it went. And
I think the fact that being a musician and
a creative person, you have a great sense
of company or companionship from that."
of reflection drove home a crucial reality,
explains Kerr. "The fact is that Simple
Minds began as Charlie and I when we were
kids at school. That was how the whole thing
started and through the '80s we were at a
collective - a band in the old, traditional
sense, like a football team. As time goes
on, you see a kind of realism. People come
and go - so much that we're back at the point
of just Charlie and I. In looking at our last
record, Real Life, I think one of it's sins
wasn't in the songwriting - it was the fact
that we were afraid to admit that it really
became Charlie and I again.
always associated Simple Minds with being
a big keyboard band," continues Kerr.
"And to think of us as not having a keyboard
player, it was immediately like, 'The Doors
wouldn't play without keyboards' or something.
Which, of course, is very limiting. I think
on the last album we tried to emulate the
sounds of old, but we realized it wouldn't
work. We were on a sinking artistic ship unless
we faced up to the reality of the fact that
we are a guitar band now: a guitar player
and a singer.
to not only feature the guitar, but we had
to be really creative with them: make them
speak different ways, try things we would
never have done," continues Kerr. "We
have to make economy of the situation work
- we're the lifeblood of the whole project
and I think that's why you have this defiance,
this kind of adamance. We'd felt that we actually
got rid of a lot of baggage that the tradition
of the band had brought on. The '80s were
great to us, but you don't want to be harping
on about old things."
whose incisive and impactful guitar lines
emerge from the songs like searchlights at
night: "The whole feel is now more urgent.
I think it comes from the fact that we finally
admitted to ourselves what we were going to
do, which was to take away most of the keyboards
and focus in on the guitars. It's given us
this energy that we needed. And as a player,
I had to face up to the fact that we're now
a guitar and a voice, and I had better make
the most of it. It kind of focused us to really
push us hard at what we do."
Burchill, some of the keyboard sounds on Good
News From the Next World are actually generated
from the guitars through the use of Lesley
speakers, a harmonizer and a special octave
guitar. "But at the same time,"
he points out, "there is definitely a
different approach when you get these sounds
from a guitar as opposed to what you would
play on a keyboard.
Burchill says that Keith Forsey "has
this incredible energy. He's very rock 'n'
roll in his approach to things and it's as
if he's quite mad. But at the same time, he
has brilliant drive. We found that when we
tended to step back, he was able to really
push both of us to accept who we are, and
the voice didn't need to have all this echo
on it. He was much more direct with things."
Kerr adds that Forsey "got us some great
guys to play with, especially drummer Mark
Schulman, a young American guy. We told Keith,
'We don't want the usual hot guys, we don't
want the usual hired hands, we want musicians
who were truly exciting."
Just as Simple
Minds' last release, Glittering Prize - a
compilation album of their greatest hits -
closed the door on one era, Good News From
The Next World opens up another one. "We
knew we wanted an album that unquestionably
said that this was the first step on a new
journey," states Kerr. And the band has
delivered nine strong songs (over the course
of 48 minutes), with no excess. "We needed
an album that really said what it was, called
a spade a spade, proclaimed the nature of
the beast. There's not a bit of this and a
bit of that on the album and, 'Oh there's
a novelty track.' There's none of that."
Good News From
The Next World is clearly a statement of intent,
a declaration with a purpose, as Simpl Minds
restlessly probe the world around them and
their own lives. The lyrics originated from
Kerr's notebook - phrases, thoughts and ideas
he's always writing down - and dialogues with
songwriting collaborator Burchill. "During
the day when we're working, we'll have the
most fantastic conversations and arguments,"
says Kerr, who later gets inside the melodies.
"You see the picture and you hear the
words, and I'll look in my notebook and there's
usually something that's been written in the
same period that matches up."
In the end,
Good News From The Next World poignantly reflects
the countdown to the end of the century and
validates our own conflicting feelings of
hope and dread. "It's the end of a one-thousand
year period," notes Kerr, "and they
say that in these times you get this turbulence
and great excitement, but also a great fear
or a great confusion. So exactly where are
we in the grand scheme of things? I don't
think anyone knows the answer to that, but
it's definitely hanging above us and I also
think my age is reflected in these songs -
I'm no longer a youth, that's for sure. I
certainly don't feel like an old man, but
I'm hitting on a certain part of my life.
There's a great uncertainy that's also exciting.
a precarious thing. A lot of people think
it's all downhill from here, and there's a
lot of evidence to support that. But for me,
it's kind of hard to believe that. To me,
it's like you'll go somewhere else, there'll
be another state of consciousness. Not that
I have any secrets, not that I've been given
some special map.
questions that are still to be asked that
appeal to me. It's the songs that are still
to be written that appeal to me. It's the
life that is till to be lived that appeals
to me. I don't find the search tiring at all."
there's Good News From The Next World after
If even his
daughter told him not to do it and his wife,
Patsy Kensit, calls him 'an old cunt', what
chance does Jim Kerr have of reclaiming the
'90s for Simple Minds? Don't you forget about
them, advisies Laura Lee Davies, who reckons
their first album for four years could put
the band back on top.
Laura Lee Davies
- 'Time Out' 25th January 1995
Paris is soaked.
The sunlight has been blocked out by the foulest
cloudy drizzle of the winter. The Sacre Coeur
has disappeared behind a miserable dark grey
curtain. It's 2pm and the photo session which
was due to take place on some charmant, typically
French avanue has been re-located to the stairwell
of one of the city's more luxurious hotels.
At 4pm Simple Minds are supposed to be performing
their first single for three years in front
of a 'Top Of The Pops' film crew, halfway
up the Eiffel Tower. Guitarist Charlie Burchill
sighs: 'More Simple Minds' Scottish weather...'
lack of crisp blue skies and the prospect
of spending most of a wet and windy evening
several hundred feet off the ground with nothing
but a few iron girders for shelter, Simple
Minds are remarkably chipper.
in the car with my kids the other day,' says
Kerr 'and my ten-year-old daughter asked me
whether we were about to release an album.
And when I told her that we were, I could
hear her in the back going "oh no"!
She was cringing over the thought of her dad
being on all these programmes that her friends
watch and she was worried about what I was
gonna be wearing. I was feeling a bit bad
and then I thought, hang on a minute, what
do you think pays for your ballet lessons?"
Jim and Charlie crease up laughing.
There must be
plenty of people who share Kerr's daughter's
misgivings. We know there's an '80s revival
going on at the moment, but do we really need
the return of Simple Minds? Before I met the
band, a quick straw poll of friends suggested
that the coolest thing about Simple Minds
was the rumour that Jim Kerr is no shrimp
in the trouser department. Until you hear
their latest album, you might well think the
have sold over 20 million records worldwide,
but they have also suffered from the Sting-syndrome,
ridiculed as often as they were appaulded
for being one of the most active of post-Live
Aid bands to address political, ideaological
and ecological issues in their songs and at
major events. It got to the point where you
could imagine every album coming complete
with it's own survival kit and a group hug
from the staff at your local record shop.
Eventually, with the rest of the band galling
away, founding members Kerr and Burchill decided
it was time to take a break. having spent
the last three years writing, without thought
of deadlines and units to shift, in the civilised
wilds of Scotland and Ireland, the pair's
forthcoming album, 'Good News From The Next
World', finds them leaner and more focused
than they have been since the beginnings of
their runaway mainstream success ten years
'The only plan
we had before we made this album was that
our tenth studio album shouldn't sound like
our tenth,' explains Kerr. 'The '80s whizzed
by for us. We really enjoyed it, but y'know,
when you start a band you daren't believe
it could last more than a fortnight, then
you find you're working on your tenth album!'
In the early
days, when their albums were icy Euro-soundscapes,
Simple Minds wore pale make-up and didn't
smile very much. Even now, with a new single
entitled 'She's A River', I expect them to
be a bit serious. However, even after plating
pop stars in the galeforce open air, they
thaw out extremely quickly. The first topic
raised is football. Jim Kerr has known Kenny
Dalglish for years but confesses that his
voice still goes up an octave whenever he
speaks to him. They interrogate me about Manchester
United's various signings and injuries. We
all agree that Charlie was foolish in the
extreme for ever suggesting that Eric Cantona
was a 'dumpling'. So much for right-on causes
and furrowed brows.
These days four
years between albums isn't an unusually long
time, but Kerr and Burchill certainly think
of 'Good News From The Next World' as something
of 'a comeback'.
'It goes with
the territory: if you're a successful band,
you become an industry. You spend more time
with lawyers, accountants and taxmen and you
only have a couple of weeks here or there
left. It gets so the first eight or nine ideas
you have become the new album and then you're
back out on the road because you can sell
'We were a bit
shocked at how much a kind of auto-pilot had
crept in. Before we thought that if we stopped,
the whole thing would crumble, so we just
kept on. There were certainly enough slaggings
of "this is so un-hip" and all of
that, but we'd never listen to that, we had
to find our for ourselves. There was enough
in the songwriting for us to think that what
we were doing was still good, but the attitude
was completely stale, that's what the whole
heading for the hills was about, to struggle
free of all the baggage.'
questions asked by interviewers have become
a running joke. Apparently one even comes
with a raised eyebrow and a distinctly shuffled
body language: how are they going to compete
with all the 'new gods' pop has produced since
they've been away? When their answer is usually
something along the lines of 'we don't know
and we don't care', the interviewers seem
somewhat disappointed. 'One guy said to us,
"I didn't think I'd be interviewing you
lot again.",' says Kerr. 'He was quite
an elderly journalist and he said he thought
we'd been replaced by all these new bands.
I asked him how long he'd been a jounalist
and when he told me he'd been doing it for
18 years I just said, "Well where are
all the new journalists? What are you fucking
talking about?" We didn't replace anybody.
If anything we filled a hole, with working-class
kids, that The Clash and The Jam had, as opposed
to Elton John, Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton,
who unfortunately (speaking as music fans)
unrelenting success, from the pumped-up pomp
of the Number one album to another, as the
perfect excuse to put off all those important
decisions. However, they have no regrets about
being forever linked with the decade of the
Filofax, they're just looking forward to claiming
the '90s too. 'In a way it's quite a compliment
to come from a decade and survive,' says Kerr.
'For instance (not that I want to be compared
with them or anything), The Stones, no matter
what they do, will always be seen as a '60s
band. Bowie, although he got through, y'know,
it's a '70s thing. Very few bands get through
and have a chance to go on. It'll be nice
to look back on one day and think that we
had six Number One albums, but right now nobody
really cares. At the time everything had,
without thinking, got bigger and bigger. And
the bigger we got, the more fucking technology
there was. This album was written on piano
and guitar. Not that we had any Pol Pot, back
to basics, thing, but that more, more, more
idea was a very '80s thing. Lyrically, Simple
Minds were known as optimistic, earnest and
all that stuff. Whether it's age or a certain
relaxation, this time it was fun for me to
write the words, to have two sides of the
coin: the whole poetic thing and just putting
a good character in there. For us as songwriters,
not even as Jim and Charlie, when we write
a song like "Hypnotised" off the
new album, we're like: Jesus! We can write
like thbis and there's only two of us! Now
it's a challenge again.'
sleeve designs like those for 'New Gold Dream'
(which are marked like bible verses) look
like the beginnings of 'Simple Minds as the
gods of anthemic pop'. At the time they just
looked good. But I have to admit that, having
enjoyed the band's years as prolific alternative-pop
experimentalists and John Peel regulars, I
joined the ranks of those who were growing
tired of the BIGness of their lyrics even
by the time Jim Kerr was stepping on to the
'Waterfront'. The band themselves describe
their last two albums as 'sprawling'. Again,
with a title like 'Good News From The Next
World', you'd expect the new album to bring
yet more lumbering solos and preachy lyrics
crashing into the shops. In fact, though Simple
Minds haven't exactly reverted to the spacey
keyboard plinkiness of the late '70s, they
have managed to recapture the vitality of
their past and strip away the padding. When
I told someone I was interviewing Simple Minds
the other day, she just said, 'Has he stopped
being boring yet?'
as saviours of the world sort of happened
by accident. Jim Kerr was on one of the most
watched television programmes in America and,
wishing to get the subject off the usual promotional
gubbins, the interviewer asked him what he'd
been up to the night before. It just so happened
that the band had bumped into the president
of Amnesty International in the hotel bar.
'Without thinking about it, we had a cause
on our hands. We took it on tour and then
Live Aid was coming, and Greenpeace, and once
you're known for that stuff, ant-aparthied
and everything, yeah of course you'd do things
you were asked, no qualms. And then it's bound
to come into the songs because you're not
just gonna turn up to the gala events.' So
followed the likes of 'Mandela Day' and the
band's rendition of 'Belfast Child'.
'A lot of people
have asked us if we think we're still relevant?
Relevant to what? To radio? The media? To
Joe Bloke? When I first heard "Losing
My Religion" - and REM were already really
big by then - I was thinking, I wonder what
Joe Bloke thinks about this lyric? To sell
those vast quantities, people just get it.
They hear it on the radio and they like it.
It's relevant because they like it. It's a
real industry thing to get caught up in whats
relevant or not, what's hip or unhip. Sure,
no one wants to feel they're not in touch
with what's going on, but for a time last
year, I got really fucked up and decided I
didn't want to read a newspaper. I'd had enough,
for someone who was so influenced by current
events, because I thought: I don't know how
it's benefiting me to know there's a war going
on here or there. I'd spend seven hours a
week reading papers and at the end of it I'd
learned very little in terms of what was intellectually
nourishing. I might as well have read a great
book that was written years ago. Also it dawned
on me that they were owned by these cunts,
and that really I was just reading someone's
column out of habit.'
band, who can still breeze through a Wembley
gig here, spent some time on an unlikely American
tour with such acts as Grant lee Buffalo,
Hole and The Cranberries. They've also been
exchanging records; Jim got Charlie into the
last Suede album. 'Sometimes you don't want
to listen to other people when you're making
a record in case it makes you feel inferior
because their thing is finished, and in the
charts and relevant,' Kerr smiles. 'it's strange
when you have a partner (he's married to Patsy
Kensit) who's eight or ten years younger than
you. On so many levels you're equal, but then
they'll run in and go, "This record is
brilliant, you have to listen to it!"
And I'll sit there and spot all the bits that
the band have nicked from this or that and
my wife'll go, "Oh fuck off! I'm not
interested in the social references or where
it's from' the guy's really good looking and
it's groovy and you're an old cunt!' More
own mujsic means many things to different
people. 'People say we were never reinvented,
that we've stayed the same,' Kerr contiunes.
'When we started we were tagged as a New Wave
group. Then we were even lumped into the New
Romantics, Electro Disco thing. Then there
were the dodgy Paul Morley years, in with
Joy Division and all that. Then there was
the Live Aid 'pop' thing, "Don't You
Forget About Me" and all that. Then the
'I'm not saying
REM haven't progressed, but image-wise they
were always this American, Bryds-ish type
of band with weird lyrics. U2, until very
recently, were known as this straight-ahead
rock band. They were like that for ten years
without change. Some people know us under
the same umbrella as Roxy Music or Ultravox
and other people think of us like Bryan Adams
or Bon Jovi'
Once Jim Kerr
is on the subject of effete air stewards who
associate them with gay discos in '80s San
Fransico and denim boys who love them alongside
Springsteen, there's no stopping him. Indeed,
ten albums down the line, Simple Minds still
have lots to talk about. After a particularly
long outpouring, Kerr gets up to go to the
toilet. Charlie, who can only compete if he
talks in tiny gaps in between, grins 'Ah,
you scored a hat-trick there, Jim' 'Nah,'
Kerr replies. 'She'll probably say one hit
the bar, one hit the post and the other one