Human Traffic

Album: Direction Of The Heart (2022)
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  • In "Human Traffic," Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerr takes us through each day of the week in a bleak circle of despair:

    Thursday raises its first minor
    Friday trucks them in from the sea
    Saturday makes me mad again
    Sunday gets the best of me

    But there is extreme dissonance between the lyric and the music, which is lively and uplifting. It's a style inspired by the English writer J. G. Ballard (1930-2009), who often contrasted our human capacity for cruelty with our need for kindness and affection. His works include Crash and High-Rise.
  • Simple Minds recorded this song for their 2018 album Walk Between Worlds, but they weren't happy with it and left it off the tracklist. They revisited it for their next album, Direction Of The Heart, released in 2022, and this time they got the results they wanted.
  • The Direction Of The Heart album art is a gas mask surrounded by flowers and butterflies, which also represents the push-and-pull between optimism and despair.
  • There's a novel that's in my brain
    About a drowning man and he's waving

    These lines could be a reference to J. G. Ballard's 1962 novel The Drowned World. Written long before global warming was taken seriously as a threat, it's a story about rising temperatures that cause much of the Earth to be submerged.
  • Russell Mael of the band Sparks sings on this track with Jim Kerr. Mael went to a Simple Minds concert in Los Angeles in 2019, which is where they connected. They stayed in touch, and when Kerr and Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds were putting the song together, they asked Mael to sing on it.
  • When the pandemic hit in 2020, Kerr and Burchill found themselves in glorious Sicily working on the album while much of the world was adjusting to the new paradigm. Kerr also went through another life changing event: the death of his father. So they found themselves in a paradise of sorts but with a backdrop of tragedy. "Human Traffic" reflects this strange scenario.

    "As we're starting the record, the situation with Dad comes to the forefront, and then a few months later, this whole mind-blowing, science fiction, what-the-hell turns up and the whole world found itself thinking, what is this?" Kerr said on the Songfacts Podcast.

    "This is when you really appreciate having an art to throw yourself into because you sort of escape the world for a bit when you've got an art or when you've got intense work that's all-encompassing. But once the initial thing of you can't leave the house and all that stuff, Charlie and I were able to get in a room together. It was full bubble mode. We ended up trying to make a feel-good record in the worst of times."


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