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Neapolis album



If you reckoned Simple Minds had been feet up in a hammock in some tropical splendour since completing the previous chapter of their career, you reckoned wrong. No sooner had Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill checked in at their new recording home, Chrysalis Records, than they were off on an odyssey involving thousands of miles, every kind of live engagement, audiences totalling over a million, and the creation of a brand new record in their towering body of work.

Neapolis is that album, described by Kerr as a "road record," a series of wide-explosure musical snapshots of this breathless and exhilarating new phase in the band's history. It's a return to the spirit and substance of Empires And Dance and Sons And Fascination, the mighty turn-of-the-80s albums that put Simple Minds slap bang in the engine room of cutting-edge British music. As a bonus to Kerr, Burchill and fans alike, along the journey they stopped to re-enrol the two members of the classic Simple Minds line-up, bassist Derek Forbes and drummer Mel Gaynor.

After two decades, millions of records sold, eight consecutive top three U.K. albums, including five No.1s, and countless hit singles, something else about Simple Minds 1998 is just like the old days, too. If you ask Kerr and Burchill what gets their creative engines going, you'll get the same answer they'd have given you 20 years ago. "On our passports, we're musicians," says Jim. "We play, we write, it's what gets us out of bed in the morning and we want to write better songs, become better performers."

Produced by Burchill and another longtime collaborator, Peter Walsh, Neapolis is both a reiteration of the fearless and flamboyant musical convictions that brought Simple Minds to power, and a diversion to some fresh terrain, some roads they've travelled for the first time over the past 18 months.

After starting work on the record at the band's Bonnie Wee Studios in Scotland, those included roads to Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris and London, as recording took place amid all manner of live work: acoustic duo dates by Jim and Charlie, festival appearances last summer with the reconvened band, and even a series of performances last autumn accompanied by a 150-piece orchestra and choir. The recording journey culminated in Italy, in the southwestern city and seaport of Naples that inspired the album title (from the Greek "nea polis" or "new city," which of course you knew).

Kerr describes Neapolis as having "more cinema" about it, and many ambient, trancey twists curl decorously around the silver screen of these songs, the mood heightened by the additional aural sculptings of British electro collective Transglobal Underground. "One of our biggest influences in the earlier days was the whole Krautrock thing," says Kerr. "Charlie was hearing it that way, the long grooves and scenic vistas, thinking, 'This has a relationship to our past and where we'd like to be just now.'"

The gear-change came after Simple Minds' final album in a 14-year tenure with Virgin, Good News From The Next World, was released early in 1995. "We felt really happy with that record," says Jim, "but it was a rock record made in America, you could hear that. We felt it was very complete, we couldn't go further down that road. It wouldn't have entertained us, never mind anyone else. So there was a touch of 'back to the drawing board' to come up with a fresher us."

Eschewing some of the more obvious rocky elements of their past decade, and in bold contrast to the frantic Union Jack-waving of the prevailing Britpop bandwagon, they found themselves in a continental drift, gravitating back to those more dance-inflected European stylings that had played such a hand in their early days. Says Burchill: "From day one, we avoided bombastic drums and stuff like that, the obvious rocky elements." Neapolis, as he enthuses, has much more to do with hypnotic, rhythmic sequences, bass riffs and sequenced patterns, married to the band's natural potency. "It's a much more interesting backdrop," says Burchill. "A lot more abstract."

Kerr and Burchill smile when people ask them where they've been these past three years, since the Neapolis plan started to unfold as soon as they'd completed the year-long 1995 tour behind Good News From The Next World. "We were afraid to stop cold-turkey, but we were shattered," says Jim. "We're always working, always messing around. But there was a year of sketching and doodling and setting up, and coming up with a premise for the record.

"A defining thing was when we took time out to play those European concerts last summer. Not only did we get a perspective, but encouragement as well. We came back to the record and said 'We have the cornerstones, let's go ahead and fill in what's what'."

Among those cornerstones, Jim and Charlie both speak like proud fathers about two in particular. "War Babies came from a remix that Tim Simenon did of Hypnotised from the last album. There was a seed in the remix that we felt should be enhanced, and it became War Babies."

Glitterball, meanwhile, became a mighty oak from a small seed: Burchill reveals that it was written on that most basic of keyboards, an Omnichord. "The stuff we were working on at that point was getting elaborate, and I thought it'd be great to give Jim something really basic, the old standard three chords and a bit of rhythm. It's quite naive in a way, but it sums up for me the general sound of the album."

Writing partners for 20 years, Kerr and Burchill have carved a rare symbiosis. "It's very much a to-and-fro thing," says Jim of their process of song creation. "Charlie will drift into the four and five o'clock in the mornings, whereas I would rather be up at eight listening with fresh ears. To him it'll be C, Band G, to me it'll be a lonely midnight telephone conversation."

The prospect of taking Neapolis on the road this year is both a thrill and a challenge. "Our attitude to playing live is very pure and almost competitive," says Kerr. "It's not enough for us to think about someone coming and enjoying it. To us, they have to go in to work or college the next day and say to their mates 'You should have been there.' I think that goes back to Burchill and I seeing so many gigs when we were kids. Not that we had any depth of analysis, but we always knew who delivered."

Meanwhile, Simple Minds won't dare to bask in 20 glorious years of history, because they're too busy being part of the future and moving into their Neapolis.

The single Glitterball is released on March 2nd (** new release date **)
Neapolis, the album, will be released on March 16th (** new release date **)

new simple minds web site:-

Press release distributed for Neapolis.