Simple Minds continues to kick against the idea that bands with 40+ years clocked on the odometer should be limited to the legacy tour circuit; releasing lacklustre albums that are pale imitations of their classics. They also refuse to embarrass themselves by attempting to be forever young. Instead, Simple Minds inhabits a domain that presents them making some of their best music; music that is illuminated by the road they have travelled. Their 2014 album “Big Music” started off a period of a resurgence by showing a resilient band ready to offer their latest rendition of uplift and excitement. On February 2nd the band continues that resurgence with their latest recording. “Walk Between Worlds” is a revelation showing the band has continued to maintain their zeal and joy. They have overcome a downturn in popularity during the late 90’s and early 00’s by continuing to produce their breathtaking music. The album captures Simple Minds continuing to evolve even after 40 yrs since their initial inception.
Work on Walk Between Worlds began in 2014 with frontman Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill again collaborating with Big Music producers Andy Wright and Gavin Goldberg. Simple Minds would see Mel Gaynor and Andy Gillespie depart the band prior to this new release. Kerr and Burchill along with bassist Ged Grimes would recruit in varying recording capacities; percussionist Cherisse Osei, keyboardist and vocalist Catherine A.D., multi-instrumentalist Gordy Goudie, to round out their latest reformulation of Simple Minds. Kerr has described the latest ensemble as more Sly and The Family Stone than the usual male rock band configuration. Walk between Worlds was constructed with two distinct sides in mind like the vinyl albums of old. The first side is very reminiscent of Simple Minds’ early work and the second side is more atmospheric, cinematic and evocative. Throughout the recording one is struck by the band’s comfort with their legacy and how that legacy allows them to investigate fresh approaches and structures.
Walk between Worlds’ first track Magic explodes with vibrancy and is signature Simple Minds. It is without a doubt easily identifiable Simple Minds yet not at all a hackney rehash of the past. It shows their fearless savvy and an effortlessness that is instinctual. Magic’s theme is faith and the mystical with lyrics like, “Sinners without a single clue” and it broaches the additional theme of belief in the both the unseen and surrounding terrestrial loved ones. Musically Charlie Burchill is a force of nature with his crystalline guitar work. It doesn’t take long to be impressed with this expansive and dramatic tune. Summer again impresses with a gritty intro that morphs into a sunlit reminiscence about the pleasures of life and the simple joys of summer. The song harkened to Sparkle in the Rain with its ebullient tone. The track at times seems barely tethered to the earth with all the uplift loaded into the selection. Summer displays Kerr savouring life now and acknowledging the challenging path that he has journeyed. He evinces a palpable anticipation for what comes next in life.
An Arabic musical sonic influences Utopia once again providing an engaging track. It utilizes cymbal play and polyrhythms that are simply magnificent. There is a marriage of early Simple Minds’ flourishes with a sensuous aura of allure bringing forth images of whirling dervishes. Burchill’s “iceberg cold” guitar licks are utterly scintillating and Kerr sends shivers of romantic fissure down the listener’s spine with his spot on delivery.
The band again ups their game with the breathtaking The Signal and The Noise. My first response was OMG the glories of Sons and Fascination and their earlier works refined for the 21st century. Kerr on this track is channelling his inner Bowie as Burchill proves once again he is a woefully underappreciated guitarist. The song is proof that Simple Minds can do less bombast and produce just as brilliant a track. It is apparent at this point in the album that each song is swinging for the fences and accepting nothing less than a home run.
The techno-flavoured In Dreams is pure high test energy captured in the studio. This swirling addictive dance track showcases all the band’s skills. Kerr’s inspired lyrics examine the dreams of both youth and maturity realizing that “only in dreams nothing ever goes wrong.” It is a lyric that displays the wisdom that comes with age. The track offers an admission of sorts from the band, especially from band founders Kerr and Burchill, acknowledging they may have lost their way a few decades ago but they are firing on all cylinders now. This song is the QED of that fact.
Barrowland Star is a tribute to that iconic East End Glasgow venue that represented to a young Simple Minds the peak of their accomplishments. The song conveys the excitement and fear of playing that esteemed venue and others of their status back in the day. For the band, Barrowlands seemed at that time to be an almost unattainable height and when conquered provided a sweet moment never forgotten. Kerr points out the bittersweet fact that that sweet moment doesn’t last, “Did we think those days would last forever?” Sonically the song threads the needle of evocative synth touches from the 80’s added to the “here and now” musical sensibilities of today. Not to be overlooked is Burchill’s incendiary guitar solo, the man is a genius. There can be no doubt that Kerr puts his heart into the vocal delivery of this spectacular track.
The title track, Walk Between Worlds opens with a moving string arrangement and then morphs into an anthemic spectacular. There is a maturity and evolution displayed that shows a band that is not at all worried about if they are relevant, as they are doing what they feel needs to be done to serve the song. It is a fearless and impressive work that is spellbinding and hooks the listener. The final song of the release Sense of Discovery is a bookend to Magic taking again as its theme faith. It displays the narrator passing on the wisdom of bygone years to a younger person. The wonky pulled around synth intro radiates a glimmering pixilation. The utilization in the chorus of phrasing that echoes the song Alive and Kicking is beautifully executed and is a highwire act that could have backfired but instead is instantly satisfying. The fantastic percussion drives the song into high gear. Every aspect of this track; Kerr’s emotive vocal, Burchill’s glistening guitar, celestial back vocals, icy synths and powerful rhythm section make for a spinetingling, goosebump producing sign off that left me overcome. Encapsulated on the track is the splendour of the esteemed recording Sparkle in the Rain squared.
With Walk Between Worlds, Simple Minds seems to stroll through their legendary releases picking out at will inspired flourishes and utilizing them along with newly acquired skills to produce a brilliant recording. Simple Minds looks to have discovered a way to take the best of what has come before and weave it with current modern musical sensibilities to produce an engaging and outstanding work. The songs sit beautifully with Simple Minds’ legendary tracks and these songs give them a run for their money. The addition of personnel the calibre of Catherine A.D. has opened new avenues of musical genius for the established members to incorporate. At the end of the album I found myself musing that Simple Minds has become what U2 has been struggling to become in recent times; the latest best reiteration of themselves. If you were once a fan of Simple Minds avail yourself of this album you won’t regret it. Walk Between Worlds will once again make you a believer. For longtime fans, the album confirms you were right to hold faith in the band and the release is an absolute must buy. For the uninitiated listener enter here to become a Simple Minds fan. The album is that good!