Simple Minds have nearly always been a mid-tier level of band in the industry. Of course, they flirted with the pinnacle with hits ‘(Don’t You) Forget About Me’ and ‘Alive and Kicking’, but, ultimately, they’ve never had the hits to maintain that height of popularity for a lengthy period of time. Their latest album, and their 17th if you’re counting, promises to be, “More inspired by the likes Sly & The Family Stone than a traditional male rock band”, but, in actual fact, it appears to be more influenced by the Simple Minds of the 80s, as they spend most of the record trying to find the formula which made them so exciting in the first place.
The album would be best described as muddled, or uninspired, but it certainly has its moments. Most of these come from frontman Jim Kerr, one of only two original members, whose voice still sounds fantastic. In fact, it’s what gives Walk Between Worlds its atmospheric, ethereal impression at times. A lot of the time, however, the production seems overly realised, as if it’s trying to recapture what made them sound so iconically 80s in the first place. Instead, though, it gives much of the album an artificial feeling, especially with the likes of ‘Magic’, which sounds more like a Take That song than a song from post-punk icons.
Indeed, throughout there appears to be a broad feeling of trying to recapture their best times on this record. Lead single, and opening track, ‘Magic’, has a tinge of pop bonanza to it, while trying to exploit the melody from ‘(Don’t You) Forget About Me’. Likewise, closing track ‘Sense of Discovery’ seems to heavily lean on ‘Alive and Kicking’s euphoric backing vocals. In fact, a lot of the hit song sounds like it’s been unequivocally sampled back in, it’s that similar. It smacks a little of desperation, like the band are determined to relive their heyday, as well as a touch of laziness. Additionally, ‘Barrowland Star’, easily the worst song on the album, is a clumsy, meandering mess. Blending strings and sentimental synth, it’s an ode to the Barrowlands in Glasgow. Unfortunately, it’s also exaggerated and superfluous, with its excessive, lengthy guitar solo seeming horribly out of place on an album full of three-minute pop songs.
There are high points, however. ‘The Signal and the Noise’ and ‘Summer’ are terrific. Featuring the technical dynamism and impressive crescendo of all the best Simple Minds songs, they’re definitely songs that are worthy of their ouvre, as well as being worthy live additions. It’s ‘Summer’ where the Sly & The Family Stone influence comes to fruition. Its throbbing bass throughout and disco beat, along with Kerr’s enticing croon, make this a delectable carousel of celebration. Additionally, ‘The Signal and the Noise’s pounding synth intro is a whole load of fun. Surprisingly, and somewhat ironically, it sounds like their close friends and old touring buddies, U2, who have also lost their way in recent years.
Walk Between Worlds is not a particularly bad album, it’s just painfully average. In fact, there’s a lot of decent tunes to get to grips with throughout, but there’s a lack of growth here that is troublesome. The music seems trivial, the messages on the record are achingly simple (“I believe in magic” and “Here comes the summer”) and, most importantly, the industry and audience’s listening tastes have changed far beyond this. The blatant copying of their biggest hit on final song ‘Sense of Discovery’ says it all: it’s time to let go of the past, lads.