It starts with, quite possibly, Mick MacNeil’s finest if nor most hauntingly beautiful piece of synth work. It’s quite a simple chord structure, but I find it just gives me goosebumps (chicken skin) EVERY TIME.
Then comes in another gem of a bassline from Derek Forbes. His bass comes alive, with the backing of the dramatic and atmospheric drum beats from Brian McGee. Then that haunting backing vocal from Jim. Just barely audible above the synth, bass and drums. Then those beautiful, haunting lyrics from Jim, including quite possibly, my favourite line of a song, ever, “in colourful, breathless, emotional sea”. His voice is deep. A song probably sung in the deepest register he could achieve. That juxtaposition of the depth of his voice and high, soaring chords of Charlie’s guitar just gives me goosebumps (chicken skin!).
I watched an interview with Jim from 1983 and he said, “I never liked the obvious rock and roll language, ‘Don’t you want me, baby’ for instance, or even ‘great balls of fire’ and things. I’ve always liked ambiguities and fragments and things with a bit more of a mystery to them.” Amen to that, my beautiful baby boy!! It’s a shame you don’t seem to still feel that way (I don’t know. Maybe you do?). Now he says he likes simplicity. Which I can appreciate too. But it’s hard to both simplistic and ambiguous, surely? But if anyone could pull it off, it’s our boy Jim! Maybe he achieved it with this one? Nah…there’s too much perplexity and complexity in ambiguity, in my opinion.
But I digress…
It keeps to a simple music chord structure throughout. But it is soo haunting. Hight notes from the synths, Charlie’s guitar soars, those beautiful basslines from Derek and those sparse but dramatic drum beats from Brian McGee – who really, really, really does need to have his part in the Simple Minds story remembered!!
It is the synths, the bass and those drums that make it for me. And, of course, Jim…his voice and those lyrics, almost becoming a tongue-twisting mantra towards the end…
“Seeing out the angel,
From the shadow of a day,
That stands alone and crying young.
For the twist in anxious days,
That stand alone and crying young.
See out the angels,
For the rescue pools of life,
That stand alone and crying young.”
Then that slow fade out with Jim repeating …
“Seeing out the angel…
With Charlie’s guitar gently jangling away, with that methodical drum beat and pulsing bassline behind.
It’s just a magical piece. It’s ephemeral and ethereal. Like it’s just going to catch in the breeze and float off as the song fades away. I find it haunting and beautiful. It’s not just in my Top 50, but in my Top 10.
I adore it.
And that is why I love Seeing Out The Angel.