Monday, 19 September 2005

Forgetting About Simple Minds

The T.S. Review is likely to exhaust some of its critical goodwill by revealing that one of its absurd guilty pleasures is that it uncritically loves Simple Minds. The aformentioned band had its greatest moment exactly 20 years ago (1985), when its uncharacteristic anthem to teenage love, Don't You (Forget About Me) was America's number one song for what seemed that entire summer. It had been featured in the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club.

There tend to be snickers and ironic winks in the U.K., but it is possible to argue that Simple Minds were, simply, the biggest UK alternative rock band of the 80s in the U.S. (discounting Depeche Mode which is a different and somewhat later story) which is no mean achievement (U2 is excluded for being Irish, of course), especially when one considers how difficult Oasis and Robbie Williams have found the search for a U.S. top ten position, let alone number one with a bullet.

At any rate, the song from the Hughes film has entered the soul of any preppie alternative kid who came of age in North America, and danced at that time. The song lends itself to precisely the sort of skyward-posing whirling gestural preciousness that makes 80s music preposterous to those who were not there, but to those who were, ah, it is sheer caviar. If music is a time machine to when one was happiest, and best-looking, most naive and heart-crushingly in love, then let such music thrive.

Simple Minds are now back, with an album which seems to be titled Black and White 050505. Nothing on the new album gives one the same visceral thrill of the early songs (New Gold Dream is their best album for its religiose, glimmering, everything-which-rises-shall-converge guitar-and-Kerr-transcendence) but it has its almost-moments of OTT greatness. Make no mistake, Simple Minds are the sort of thing we will miss when they are truly gone: unalloyed flamboyant eucharistic bombast.

Oddly, one of the new songs, "Stranger" is a bizarre and blatant cross between Madonna's "Mysterious Stranger" and Zooropa-era U2; as well as a tip of the hat to, naturally, their most famous song from the Reagan Era (the sha-la-la-las are a dead give away).

Lest we forget, Jim Kerr and the lads are actually great, and should be adored, despite their silly refusal to be put down, and their willingness to keep a ghost of their youthful strut and kick alive.
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