Palm: The Philadelphia Experiment

Urban outfit Palm retreated to a rural farmhouse to make Rock Island

Every seven minutes or so, Palm’s Philadelphia apartment roars and rattles with the passing of another train. The row home abuts the tracks of the Market-Frankford El, which zips by the upstairs windows with regularity. It’s seen in full display in Palm’s recent “Dog Milk” video, where the band performs on the rooftop, unfurling spectral guitar tones into the evening air as the B train rolls on through.

“The train’s great,” says Kasra Kurt, who shares guitar and vocal duties in Palm with Eve Alpert. “Except when you’re demoing and trying to get a vocal take. You’ll think you got ‘the one,’ and you’ll listen back and it’s just this rumble under it.”

“Or when you’re watching Netflix,” says Alpert.

The noise was part of the reason why the experimental-rock quartet—which also features bassist Gerasimos Livitsanos and drummer Hugo Stanley—decamped to a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley last fall to record its new Rock Island (Carpark). They formed in Hudson, N.Y., in 2012, and it was less that they sought to return home or that they craved quiet, and more that they wanted to make a little noise of their own, to be loud into the night without neighbors complaining.

“We liked the idea of going somewhere else,” says Alpert. “Especially being in the Hudson Valley where it’s so familiar to us, and having a chunk of time with no distractions.”

In total, it was three weeks of 18-hour days with their friend Matt Labozza, engineer of last year’s excellent Shadow Expert EP. The resulting album juts and jars with unconventional intersections of melody and rhythm, but the overall tone is sugar-sweet, and when Kurt cites Captain Beefheart and the Beach Boys as two artists his bandmates keep in regular rotation, it makes sense.

So how does the city-dwelling Palm of 2018 relate to its countryside origins?

“We were a really bad band for a really long time,” laughs Kurt, wistfully recalling excitable young artists with a voracious musical appetite trying to hone in on a voice. “I think that if we lived in a city playing shows while we were trying to figure out what we were doing, we would’ve gotten really disheartened really quickly.”

Alpert adds that the upside of being in the city today is proximity to peers, like the Guests and Mothers. “It’s just having more people that we’re inspired by,” she says. “We can rub off on each other.”

—John Vettese

Kasra Kurt: “Me and Gerry both follow this team in England called Arsenal, and there’s something about watching a team of people play a really flowing and free sport together, in sync with one another. It’s very visually pleasing and creatively inspiring.”

Friends Who Make Music
Eve Alpert: “Our friends Mothers, from Athens, Ga., moved to Philadelphia recently, and our friend Ada Babar from Atlanta moved here, too. They lived with us for six months last year. We’ve always kept in touch through text, sent each other voice memos of what we’re working on. I feel more sane with what we’re doing when I have friends who are also working nonstop on their craft.”

The Settlers Of Catan
Gerasimos Livitsanos: “It’s a board game we’ve been playing a lot that involves cooperating with the other players at times, and then sometimes not. It’s gonna be the downfall of us.”

The Monochrome Set: Trinity Road

Hopefully, you’ve already read our brand-new feature on longtime MAGNET fave the Monochrome Set. If not, do it right here, right now:

Given it’s Bid and Co.’s 40th anniversary this year, it got us thinking about their past, especially their prolific period following their second reformation, starting in 2010. That year, the great Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) wrote in MAGNET about his love for the Monochrome Set, dating back to his high-school years when he started playing music with a friend who had given a tape of songs he claimed as his own but were really the Set:

Jason Falkner Don’t Mind: The Monochrome Set

In 2015, the Monochrome Set released Spaces Everywhere, its 12th album overall and third since reforming half a decade earlier. To us, the LP proved that this wasn’t just one of those bands getting back to together for some quick cash but one that was still capable of making music as vital and relevant as its early material. We were proud to premiere the video for Spaces Everywhere‘s first single, “Iceman”:

Film At 11: The Monochrome Set

The next year brought with it not only another great studio album, Cosmonaut

Essential New Music: The Monochrome Set’s “Cosmonaut”

… but also Volume, Contrast, Brilliance … Unreleased & Rare, Vol. 2:

Essential New Music: The Monochrome Set’s “Volume, Contrast, Brilliance … Unreleased & Rare Vol. 2”

Which, with our aforementioned new feature surrounding the release of latest LP Maisieworld and retrospective The Monochrome Set 1979-1985: Complete Recordings, catches you up with the Monochrome Set 3.0. The Set has gigs set up this summer if you find yourself in the U.K. or Spain, and we highly encourage to see them if you do. But until then, we Bid you adieu.

The Monochrome Set: Bid’s Boutique

In most professional contexts, 40 years of service puts you squarely at retirement age. In the music business, it may as well be several lifetimes. Yet here’s Bid (née Ganesh Seshadri), for four decades the face, voice, guitarist and primary songwriter of the Monochrome Set, marking the band’s ruby anniversary with not only a boxed set of its long out-of-print first albums and singles but a new LP, Maisieworld, that further expands its sonic palette.

The Monochrome Set really should’ve been bigger. Or maybe not. Maybe, in a sort of Alice-through-the-looking-glass way, the band’s low-flame simmer is what’s allowed it to last this long.

“You know how it is,” says Bid. “To get on the charts, you need to sell a lot of records in a short span. We never did. But then, what was happening on the charts didn’t necessarily reflect what was happening in the clubs. And we had a huge live following. Many bands who were much more commercially successful than us at the time have disappeared. We kind of just carried on.”

And how. Witty, wildly literate and steeped in American psychedelia and experimental pop, the Monochrome Set’s warmly brainy music has long been a poorly kept secret among career oddballs from Morrissey and Marr to Franz Ferdinand. But the Set’s earliest work has been difficult to find, having been released and re-released on a smattering of since-folded small labels, making The Monochrome Set 1979-1985: Complete Recordings an especially happy-making occasion.

Sometimes the stars align: Just ahead of the band’s 40th anniversary in January of this year, Bid discovered that the rights to the Monochrome Set’s first two albums, Strange Boutique and Love Zombies (both 1980), had reverted to him, after years of languishing under various ownerships. The band also had recently moved to a new label, Tapete Records, that was not only gung ho on its new music but committed to curating a full retrospective of its formative years. Complete Recordings packages the Monochrome Set’s first two albums, plus 1982’s Eligible Bachelors and 1985’s The Lost Weekend (the Set’s only major-label release) along with all of its singles and EPs from the same period. Full lyrics and liner notes from Bid augment a deliriously rich six discs’ worth of music.

“It feels good,” says Bid. “We were always very inward-looking. We were often described as post-punk or new wave, but we were nothing to do with new wave. We were much more American in our leanings—garage rock, experimental pop, the whole Northeastern pop feel. It’s a bit like a band like Pere Ubu, who always went with their own thing, got it down tight and then took it to the public, and didn’t really worry much about the commerciality of it all.”

Looking back, Bid sees a kind of limited window that allowed bands like the Mono- chrome Set (and also Pere Ubu, for that matter) a rewarding longevity without ever having scored anything in the way of mainstream success.

“It was really only a period of the mid-’60s to the mid-’80s where there was, shall we say, a middle class in the pop-music industry,” he says. “Now it’s all the aristocracy: There are the Taylor Swifts and the Blind Willie McTells, and nothing much in between. It’s either massive stars or these sorts of troubadours who go around making stuff for people in bars. That’s why it’s quite important for us to play as many countries as we can. You can pick up newer audiences. Whatever rubbish you come up with, there’ll be someone in the world who thinks you’re great.”

—Eric Waggoner

Flashback Friday: Wooden Shjips (Smoke On The Water)

Wooden Shjips are releasing new album V. today via our friends at Thrill Jockey, and trust us, it’s a must hear. As you might gather from the LP’s title, it’s the San Francisco band’s fifth album, though these psychedelic sailors insist the “V” references the two-fingered peace sign. (We’re more familiar with the one-fingered salute, but we digress … )

Lazy music journalists might say Wooden Shjips sound like what would happen if Spacemen 3 were American and listened to a lot of the Dead and Suicide, but it is the Friday before Memorial Day, and marijuana possession has been decriminalized in our hometown of Philly, so go ahead and call us lazy.

Speaking of weed, it’s Flashback Friday time, man. We first introduced you to Wooden Shjips in issue #81 back in fall 2011 around the time third album West came out. We’re bringing you that article today, published online for the very first time. Get psyched:


Wooden Shjips

Brevity becomes Wooden Shjips on their best album yet

Wooden Shjips don’t know when to stop—in the very best way imaginable. Newly out on Thrill Jockey, West provides a fresh perspective on (alien) terrain once broached by the likes of Chrome and Spacemen 3. But the San Francisco-based (still, kinda) psychedelic quartet pursues their mission with a restless inventiveness that makes seven minutes seem too short, and seven songs too few.

“When it came time to record the album, we really didn’t talk about how long we wanted songs to be,” organist Nash Whalen explains by phone as he prepares for a string of tours that’ll last into late fall. “We just played them in the studio, and then later on, we were like: ‘Wow! That was only four minutes?’”

Granted, they were working in unfamiliar surroundings. Recorded and mixed in six days by Phil Manley (Trans Am, Oneida, the Fucking Champs) and mastered by psych/experimental legend Sonic Boom, the band’s third album (not counting two singles collections) is the first they’ve recorded away from their practice space. The added clarity brings West’s constituent parts into sharper relief without sacrificing anything in the way of immediacy.

As always, Whalen, bassist Dusty Jermier and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin mostly contribute momentum and texture—though Whalen occasionally steps to the fore. Founder, singer and guitarist Ripley Johnson’s spectral croon sounds more disembodied than ever, a perfect foil for solos that unfold like some cosmic rupture the Hubble might capture a glimpse of.

With the likes of Animal Collective introducing the indie rock masses to psychedelia and events like Austin’s annual Psych Fest enhancing their visibility, it’s no wonder that demand for the band is rising.

“It’s one of those kinds of music that’s always going to have hardcore fans,” says Whalen. “But when more good bands come along, the genre expands and more people are able to get excited about it. It seems like right now a lot of bands are tapping into it, and I think it’s a good thing. Everyone’s coming at it from a different place. It’s not a one-trick pony, not a one-dimensional genre at all.”

—Rod Smith

Prism Tats: Mamba King 

Prism Tats produces political post-punk with a progressive pith 

Garett van der Spek, the South African expatriate who records as Prism Tats, is proud that sophomore album Mamba (Anti-) is a guitar-driven effort. “I achieved a tone on the guitars— a sense of venom and aggression—that I could never get recording at home,” he says. “Chris (Woodhouse) took the sound to a new level.” 

The L.A.-based van der Spek and producer Woodhouse (Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees) took the home demos the former made on his laptop, used them as a template and redid the songs in the studio, recording on 16-track analog tape and pushing van der Spek out of his comfort zone. 

“Analog isn’t as unforgiving as digital, so you come out of it as a better musician,” says van der Spek. “We considered what we could do to make every note resonate. Stacking the tracks up to get that spacious, oceanic sound takes more time, but the music is warmer, closer to a live performance.” 

The ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic arrangements on Mamba balance van der Spek’s understated vocals with bracing blasts of guitar noise and hypnotic layers of Farfisa that suggest the outer limits of krautrock experimentation. The emotional landscape of the tunes is just as complex, moving from the sparkling, keyboard-driven serenade of “Ocean Floor” to the grinding, post-punk attack of “The Liar,” a harbinger of impending doom written during the 2016 election cycle. 

“I went into the studio to record right after the election, and it cast a shadow over the sessions,” he says. “There was a doomsday feeling, like the world was ending. I’ve been in America for 10 years, but I still I feel like an outsider. That may give me a unique perspective. I write pop music, but I relate better to music that’s realistic. To sum it up, I prefer documentaries to romantic comedies. There’s a time and place for lighthearted entertainment, but that time and place is not right now.”

—j. poet


Nick Cave
“I was lucky enough to see Nick Cave last year. It was a profound and inspiring experience to see someone who has become an icon and a legend for doing the thing he does and never straying from it.” 

Zanele Muholi
“Back in South Africa, I went to the Zeitz MOCAA museum. The building is a work of art, and I got to see some work by Zanele Muholi. Her art is striking and beautiful.” 

Hailu Mergia
“When your partner asks you to play anything but that record, you know you’re obsessed. Mergia & Dahlak Band’s Wede Harer Guzo has been on repeat of late.” 

Mount Eerie: Misty Mountain Hop (Phil Elverum And Josh Tillman’s Not-So Strange Encounter)

The truth about the night Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum met Father John Misty’s Josh Tillman

On Now Only’s title track, Phil Elverum sings about meeting Father John Misty last year at the FORM Arcosanti festival in Arizona: “I had stayed up till three/Talking to Weyes Blood and Father John Misty about songwriting/In the backstage bungalows.” On the song, he calls the exchange “a self-indulgent all-consuming wreck of ideas” in comparison to the grief he was experiencing. We asked him to tell us more about that night. 

“It was really a fun night, actually,” says Elverum. “I had never heard Father John Misty before, but I watched his show at this festival, and then I went backstage. He’s very popular; I didn’t know anything about him. He was surrounded by people. 

“I thought it was interesting, his way of songwriting. I didn’t really like the form of the songs or aesthetic so much, but the writing was inspiring to me. I felt like I’d never heard anything like it before, a songwriter’s willingness to use the vocabulary of the banal realities of our modern day. It seemed fearless to talk about dumb bullshit in an honest way and make it beautiful and deep. 

“So that’s what we talked about: ideas, from different perspectives, and different ideas of identity and your public self and authenticity and trying to get underneath all these layers of performative persona and how tricky it is. We’ve had different lives, too. My situation is that actual death happening obliterated any pretense, and I could only tell the truth. I think he was struggling with it more, trying to find a way to truth through other methods.”

—Steve Klinge

Mount Eerie: Songs Of Pain And Devotion 

With Now Only, Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum is turning loss into art again

From 1996 to 2003, Philip Whitman Elvrum recorded as the Microphones. Then he rebranded himself as Mount Eerie. And as Phil Elverum. And now … 

“I’m a single parent of a three-year-old—that defines me,” says Elverum. “Right now, she’s at school, and I pick her up in an hour. When she’s home, she doesn’t let me talk on the phone for very long before she starts yelling at me.” 

Although he has a new album to talk about, he has only small windows of his day available. After the death of his wife, artist Geneviève Castrée, as a result of pancreatic cancer in July 2016, Elverum had to redefine himself again. Last year’s stark A Crow Looked At Me documented, in unflinching detail, his attempt to process the unfathomable event. And now comes Now Only (P.W. Elverum & Sun), which extends Elverum’s self-examination, both in continuing to talk through the loss of his wife and in articulating his conflicted views about turning his intensely private experiences and thoughts into songs and performing them in public. 

“I don’t know how I’ve been able to make two albums during this life,” says Elverum. “That explains why the two albums I’ve made are so spare in their production. I made them in this room upstairs in times like this when she goes to someone else’s house for a couple hours or after she goes to bed.” 

A Crow Looked At Me and Now Only aren’t radically different in tone from the quieter end of the spectrum of Elverum’s Mount Eerie work, but they are unprecedented in their explicit autobiographical subject matter. “Although I think of all of my work as part of the same flow, there’s definitely this dividing line in my life now, between pre-Geneviève dying and post-Geneviève dying, and the creative work also obeys that boundary,” he says. “I’m not going to play any work from before that. I feel like that person is gone, that version of me is gone.” 

As on A Crow, Elverum directly addresses his wife in most of the tracks on Now Only. “I recorded all these songs about the echoes in our house now/ And then walked out the door to play them on a stage/But I sing to you,” Elverum sings on opener “Tintin In Tibet.” He’s aware of the artifice and layers of irony embedded in that statement, though. 

“That’s one of the themes that runs through both of these records: the absurdity of doing these extremely private things on a stage and being looked at while I’m doing it, and knowing that I’m doing it, but pretending that it’s not public,” says Elverum. “It’s the interplay between public and private. That’s one of the things I poke at in the songs.” 

In conversation he’s thoughtful and analytical, but also cheerful and quick to laugh, even when discussing the weighty subject matter that his songs tackle. “Even within these super-heavy, sincere songs, there’s irony and satire,” he says. “Even on the very beginning (of A Crow), where ‘Death’s not for singing about, it’s not for making into art’: There’s contradiction and irony, and there’s playing with the form. I can’t help it. Even when I’m trying to be honest, I can’t help joking around.” 

Elverum sees Now Only as “part two” of A Crow. It extends and deepens the exploration of loss and grief, but it also includes self-referential examinations of his experience touring the album. The title track recounts, in part, his experience going to a music festival in Phoenix “to sing these death songs to a bunch of young people on drugs.” On “Two Paintings By Nikolai Astrup” and “Distortion,” he’s thinking about legacies and what’s left behind after death. At around 10 minutes each, those songs are longer than anything on A Crow. 

“I had more to say, and I still feel they’re short,” he says. “I’m interested in saying something that’s full of content, rich and potent. With A Crow Looked At Me, I feel it had depth, but a lot of it was just the initial impact feeling, like a blunt blow. There’s a place for that, but I’m interested in having a more nuanced conversation. That’s what these longform songs can do. It’s not for everyone. It’s probably not going to be that popular. People don’t like to sit around and talk for 45 minutes about mortality. But I do.” 

Elverum knows that these albums can challenge listeners: They demand attention, and the experience isn’t a comfortable one. While Now Only has a few moments of noise and volume, its aesthetics are still as stark as its lyrics. 

“I don’t think of them as songs,” says Elverum. “I know that’s what they are, but I think of them more as me writing about these big issues, about what’s on my mind and in my life. This is what my life is like now. It’s interesting and emotional and painful, and there’s beauty and joy and residual love. They’re barely musical, like the last record. They’re in the shape of a song, but they’re huge piles of words and ideas that hang on rhythm and vague melodies.” 

Being a single parent dominates Elverum’s life, and he doesn’t plan to tour much, but part of him continually focuses on turning his ideas into art. “Whatever I’m doing, I’m always chewing on these ideas and working on them,” he says. “I don’t know what’s going to come next, but I can vaguely make out the shapes of one more very wordy record. So maybe there will be a part three. Then, hopefully, I’ll find something new to do.”

—Steve Klinge

Anna von Hausswolff: No Depression

With Dead Magic, Anna von Hausswolff freed herself from a dark place

Swedish organist Anna von Hausswolff has made the most aesthetically adventurous album of her career with Dead Magic (City Slang). The record, her fourth, opens with an eerie 12-minute suite called “The Truth, The Glow, The Fall,” rebounds into sinister, chain-clanking blues howler “The Mysterious Vanishing Of Electra,” downshifts into 16-minute cathedral-echoed epic “Ugly And Vengeful,” then gets Carnival Of Souls creepy with the haunted-sounding “The Marble Eye.” But there’s just one problem: She has no recollection of exactly how she managed to compose this magnum opus.

“I know it sounds unbelievable, but when I was making it, I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. “I wasn’t aware. I wasn’t present.”

This Gothenburg-raised iconoclast—the daughter of avant-garde artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff—isn’t joking. After touring behind her last effort, 2015’s The Miraculous, she returned home and promptly fell into a funk. She did her best to keep up appearances, staying social and going out with friends. But inside, something had shifted.

“I was exhausted, and I felt like I had lost my imagination,” says von Hausswolff. “Or my own imagination was trying to project the idea that it was dead or gone or missing. It was very strange.”

She can’t pinpoint the nadir. The darkest days floated into each other, until they coalesced into an all-encompassing ennui. “It was this state of mind where you feel like nothing you do matters, like nothing you do is of any value—everything had lost that magical shimmer,” she says. Hence the oxymoronic album title.

The 31-year-old von Hausswolff soon discovered that the only way out of her dire situation was just to stay busy. She began to write new material, most of which would end up on Dead Magic. “I was very confused, not really sure of what I was thinking or doing,” she says. “I only knew that I had an urge to get out of that depression and to become more physical in my way of delivering my vocals, so I could get a connection that triggered my emotions again. So I really pushed myself to the perimeters.”

Gradually, her curiosity was rekindled. Listening to her feral snarling on “Electra,” however, she’s hard pressed to recall her motivation or even its lyrical theme. “That’s just what came out of the dark place I was in,” she says. The effort was written almost automatically, in 2016, then tracked a year later in Copenhagen by producer Randall Dunn, with von Hausswolff utilizing that city’s vintage Marmorkirken (or Marble Church) organ, the type of imposing instrument with which she’s most familiar. Now the songs are beginning to transform and blossom as she seeks to understand them, imbue them with deeper significance. What did she learn from her mojo-losing experience?

“That even if I start projecting destructive ideas onto myself or thinking my creativity is gone, it’s never gone,” she says. “It’s just your dark imagination working its way into your brain. It’s very strange how the mind works and how you can react to it.”

—Tom Lanham

Simple Minds: The Truth About Charlie

Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr on his 50-year friendship with press-shy music-making partner Charlie Burchill

As its longtime lyricist and singer, Jim Kerr is, for all intents and purposes, the Simplest Mind. Yet, ever since 1977, Kerr and childhood friend Charlie Burchill have been sonically tied at the hip. First as Johnny & The Self-Abusers (one Chiswick label single, “Saints And Sinners”), then as Simple Minds, the Glaswegian songwriting duo have never stopped making music, even if—especially in Burchill’s case—they don’t do many interviews.

“I can beat him at table tennis, but Charlie’s a tenacious sod,” says Kerr, waxing—one would assume—metaphoric about their co-joined talents as a 41-year-old team. “He’s a good guy, Charlie. Always was.”

If Simple Minds isn’t touring, multi-instrumentalist Burchill is writing music and melodies for the duo (and its added newer batch of sidemen) on a daily basis. “Charlie has always been the type of guy who gets out of bed in the morning and starts writing songs,” says Kerr. “Could be he’s at his piano with a cup of coffee or with his guitar twisting himself up. He’s meditating—yes, he does that—and he’s working on something. I do it, too—the daily writing—but not as diligently and dutifully as he.”

So little has shifted about what Kerr and Burchill do and how they operate.

“What has changed are the outside constants,” he says. “The industry has changed. The technology has changed. The world has changed. Don’t get me wrong. We’ve changed as people, too, because we were seriously children when we first met. However, amongst all that dizzying change, fundamentally, he and I are the same people. Think about what we do: Look for a sound, a melody, an emotion and the words to suit it all, then record it, then take it around the world. That was us since we were teens.”

—A.D. Amorosi

Simple Minds: Alive And Kicking

Four decades in, Simple Minds still offer songs of faith and devotion

“Concentrating on new music gives us something to hold on to in a world that’s spinning out of control and often unrecognizable.”

That’s Jim Kerr talking as a co-founding member of Simple Minds on the occasion of latest album Walk Between Worlds (BMG). As Kerr and longtime musical partner Charlie Burchill have since their start in 1977, Simple Minds still speak of life’s mysteries and its dream realities, of faith and one’s own sense of spirituality, and of positioning its narrators as romantics and outcasts. With all that existentialism—rather than continuing its sonic reign (or rain) as earthen, atmospheric, anthem makers on par with big-selling songs like “Alive And Kicking” and “Glittering Prize”—Simple Minds added risk to its mix and brought in elements of the electronic post-punk punch of its earliest albums such as 1980’s Empires And Dance and 1981’s Sons And Fascination.

“We do see divisions—Charlie and I—in how our records have sounded (from album to album), but for us, it really is one journey, one book,” says the Simple Minds lyricist/singer. “There are changes in our lives that create natural demarcations, influenced as we are by different things. But I don’t believe that the essence of what we do or who we are changes.”

Listening to Kerr’s vocals on initial Simple Minds albums (1979’s Life In A Day and Real To Real Cacophony) now, it’s remarkable how much older than his years he sounded then. “I hope I’ve grown into that voice,” he says with a laugh. “Because if I haven’t done so by now, I better hurry up. I do believe I have different energies for different songs. As soon as I approach the microphone—that is me. There’s no warming up. You don’t need to be screaming for attention all the time.”

Considering those earliest LPs, Kerr teases that there are many elements that he digs “and many that I do not.” Yet, there is one thing that the singer believes a Simple Minds listener can appreciate in all the earliest recordings: imagination. “You can hear us thinking; young guys boiling over with enthusiasm; sometimes over-reaching, which, by the way, for me would not be a minus. You have to reach.” Kerr also goes on to say that Simple Minds was born out of a vacuum in Glasgow, as the group had no real local reference or scene to learn from or with whom to share stories. “It was all learning on the hoof and in public,” he says. “What we had was what it was: us pooling together our influences and rather desperately trying to grow something out of those similar or disparate inspirations.” With that, Simple Minds, at its early electronic post-punk sunburst epiphany, was a collection of its strengths and weaknesses. “Preferably with just a few more strengths,” says Kerr.

Recording new albums (a crucial part of Simple Minds’ existence so to never become a museum piece) such as 2005’s Black & White, 2009’s Graffiti Soul and 2014’s Big Music found Kerr and Burchill increasingly more fascinated by the sounds of its earliest efforts with electronic twitches as a driving force. “The same is true with this new album,” says Kerr.

The songs on Walk Between Worlds began as most Simple Minds songs do: with a Burchill sound that provokes Kerr to imagine. “I’m not a b-minor guy,” he says. “I’m the guy who sees the courtyard or sees the woman or man inside that courtyard and one of them is writing a letter. I just see that stuff.” Turning (or returning) to the Euro dance-rock electronic sound of its past allowed those pictures—lyrics of faith and devotion—to be writ loud. “There are sounds we swore we’d never use again that are very much part of the present that add to the dialogue,” says Kerr. “Fifteen years after we thought something was dated and old, lo and behold, that sound reannounces itself as fresh. There is a new validity. You re-engage.”

Of new songs such as “Utopia,” “Magic” and “Sense Of Discovery,” Kerr says he couldn’t have written of the faith and experience within each lyric: “You would have had to run around the block a few times to glean that experience and have that level of reflection.” The lyricist acknowledges that faith is a condition outside of Godliness or religion but that devotion and conviction, though a personal issue, drive some of his most stirring new stories. “Without sounding an arrogant little sod, faith is what drove me in the first place,” he says. “It makes our music mean something. You have to have a sense of heightened something else. And whatever name you wish to call that, so be it. The vibe, the flow, the muse. Some people call it God. It’s a calling to be written and a calling to be sung.”

—A.D. Amorosi