Street Fighting Years

David Sinclair - 'Q' Magazine (UK)


Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi and even Genesis may sell more records and tickets than Simple Minds, but with Street Fighting Years the band has arrived at that coveted place in the superleague constellation that is reserved for the act which can burn with the brightest sense of mission.

Jim Kerr has become a master at talking up the business of making music, never wasting an opportunity to describe his trade in terms of spiritual and mystical reference points to which the tag of greatness can be readily attached. Now, over three years after their last studio album, Once Upon A Time, the bond has finally produced a collection to justify that attitude.

The first thing that strikes you about Street Fighting Years is how quiet much of it is. The album starts with the sound of a solo upright bass leading into the rolling piano chords of the title track. In various songs, especially the slow, reflective refrain of Let It All Come Down, Jim Kerr pitches his vocal in a new, silky low register. The full-length version of Belfast Child and Peter Gabriel's Biko only gather momentum after wistful, meandering intros, while even among the teeming shoals of sound that propel the uptempo Wall Of Love or Kick It In, there are placid eddies where Jim Kerr's singing slips from a yell to a whisper. But there's no mistaking the iron fist at work within the velvet glove. The utterly beguiling melody of This Is Your Land, featuring a deadpan Lou Reed, cloaks a stinging rebuke on the issue of the environment while gently leading the listener up towards the panoramic splendour of the instrumental coda. Everything is right about the album.

Charlie Burchill has discovered the joys of slide guitar, and his judicious contributions season the production with a modish dash of roots-rock flavouring. Lyrically, the switch from the vague impressionism of the past to a questioning manifesto embracing the popular international issues of the times - Mandela Day, Biko et al-seems both natural and timely. Even when the music takes off into the vast dramatic sweeps that will roll like huge breakers to the back of the stadiums of Europe this summer, there is little that could fairly be described as bluster. Simple Minds have done more than make a landmark album. They have assumed the mantle of authority.

(5 out of 5)



Street Fighting Years

CMJ New Music (US)


Simple Minds' association with the human rights organization Amnesty International is apparent on Street Fighting Years, the band's first studio album in close to four years. While this album perhaps thankfully lacks the inspirational anthems of the Sparkle In The Rain era (which were fine at the time), the streamlined band-they're down to a basic trio, with help from Stewart Copeland, Sting drummer Manu Katche and Mellencamp fiddler Lisa Germano-focuses attention on the passion of the lyrics, which have a political awareness and social consciousness that keeps those spots where the music falls short up on a high level. On songs like "Mandela Day" (the theme song for last June's Wembley Stadium event), and the cover of Peter Gabriel's "Biko," Simple Minds shows their concern for South African affairs. They bring it closer to home on the heartening epic "Belfast Child" (with their lyrics sung to the tune of the traditional Scottish song "She Moved Through The Fair," it is by far the stand-out gem of this LP) and the first U.S. single, "This Is Your Land," with added vocals from Lou Reed. Also check out "Soul Crying Out" and the title track 'Street Fighting Years'.



Street Fighting Years

Mike Soutar - 'Smash Hits' (UK)


'Street Fighting Years' is Simple Minds' first 'real' LP for over three years. Since then they've released a sort of greatest hits double album of live 'workouts' called 'In The City Of Light', toured the world a number of times, and slimmed down to three members. This, their tenth LP in ten years, is packed with the kind of crowd-rousing flag hoisting anthems that everyone expects from the Minds, except this time they've entirely forgotten to include the chorus in any of the songs. All the tracks are about ten minutes long, too, which means that although they'll probably sound epic played live, they'll probably drive you quite mad in the comfort of your own bedroom.

(6 out of 10)



Street Fighting Years

Scottish Sunday Mail (UK)


Simple Minds' new album Street Fighting Years is due to be released on May 2 and this week I had a sneak preview.

The faithful will not be disappointed.... and the doubters will be converted. It's their best work yet. The standard of Belfast Child and This Is Your Land is maintained throughout. And there's one stunning song called Soul Crying Out, a resounding cry against the poll tax, of which Jim Kerr is an eloquent opponent.

I caught up with him before the band set off on their 14-month world tour. "We set out to write songs about these times and, to do that, it's hard to ignore the politics" he said. Jim is as understandably excited about the album as everyone else who's heard it.

"We want to show that the last 10 years has been an apprenticeship, and now it's going to get really, really interesting" he added. Jim says the songs are better, the singing is better, and that the band is at it's best. "It's music that has a spirit of life behind it, if that doesn't sound too psuedy." I'll forgive you that one, Jim. The album is a winner.



This Is Your Land

'Smash Hits' (UK)


At first this sounds alarmingly like the sort of music you hear in an adverisement for an Abbey National pension plan. It starts off with some highly atmospheric rumblings and swooshes, and continues with Jim Kerr doing a passable impression of the recently deceased Roy Orbison. These days he thinks he's some sort of a social commentator and so feels perfectly justified in telling everyone about "churches and steeples" and "big city people" - which is all well and good if you like that sort of thing (and granted quite a lot of people seem to find Jim a bit of a hero figure) but it is just a trifle pompous all the same. "This Is Your Land" probably makes a very valid point if you listen to the whole thing, but there's slim chance of finding out what it is because by then, one has probably retired to one's kip.



Street Fighting Years

Chris Brazier - (US)


This is the album which is certain to propel Simple Minds - already fantastically popular - into the mega-league inhabited by the likes of U2 and Springsteen. And, like those two acts, this one wears its political heart on its sleeve: there are songs here about Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, Belfast and the environment.

The world is no longer a simpleminded question of chasing rock success: like Sting, singer Jim Kerr has discovered his conscience and quite rightly wants to use his stature and popularity to spread the word about injustice. So far so good. And so too is the readiness to look beyond the stadium-rock bombast into which they were fast slipping and investigate the more contemplative pastures little seen since their best record, 1982Ős New Gold Dream. But for all that Street Fighting Years is a touch disappointing. Trevor HornŐs production has its usual epic scale and denisty but the songwriting is often too pallid to match it: KerrŐs Mandela Day, for instance, suffers badly by comparison with Peter GabrielŐs Biko, even in the rather anaemic clothes that song appears in here.

There is feeling and there is form - but overall Simple Minds havenŐt quite come up with enough substance to stop them being marked down as an inferior U2.





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