Simple Minds

Walk Between Worlds

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After a decade-and-a-half of faltering and making records by trial and error, Simple Minds regained their sanity and rediscovered the anthemic, synth-drenched Euro dance-rock sound that made them a chart staple during the early '80s. Oddly, they wandered off the path with the lazy Acoustic two years later. Walk Between Worlds finds them on much surer footing, regaining much of the energy that infused their great run of albums between 1979's Real to Real Cacophony and 1985's Once Upon a Time. Vocalist Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill are the lone surviving original members, but they re-enlisted drummer Mel Gaynor, bassist Ged Grimes, and vocalist Sarah Brown from Big Music, and employed a host of backing singers. As a whole, Walk Between Worlds careens from strength to strength, even if it is drenched in nostalgia. While many bands who emerged during the post-punk and synth pop eras have unsuccessfully attempted the same feat (the most notable being U2, who failed so miserably in rediscovering their root identity on Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience), Simple Minds are not only able to remember who they were, but they execute it almost without a hitch.

They waste no time in bringing out the big beats to let the listener know, too. Set opener "Magic" would have been right at home as a single between Sons and Fascination and New Gold Dream. Gated synths and thundering live drums propelled by a throbbing bassline and Burchill's Edge-esque guitar atmospherics build a sonic wall behind Kerr as he alternately croons, shouts, and occasionally whispers dramatically. The whomping guitar, bass, and drum thud in "Summer" is over the top. Kerr counters the barely restrained attack by alternately brooding and snarling until the bridge, where his softer emotions emerge through the mix. Other than Burchill's crunchier-than-normal guitar in "The Signal and the Noise," the synth- and drum-laden anthem would have been a welcome entry on Empires and Dance. "The Barrow and the Star" is the album's hinge track musically and lyrically. Kerr's words are conflicted between recalling poignant memories, and an elusive (i.e., hopeless) wish for the opportunity to begin again. Buoyed by a string section and a full backing chorus, it's stirring and moving in the same way as "Don't You Forget About Me" without sounding remotely like it. Contrast this with "Sense of Discovery," where the protagonist relates hope as it emerges from seemingly aimless waiting and gritty, mettle-testing faith. The lyrics are threaded through a midtempo ballad that erupts into a full-blown rock crescendo during the guitar break, elevating the entire proceeding amid swirling synths and strident vocal interplay between Kerr, Brown, and the backing chorus. A reading of Ewan MacColl's eternal "Dirty Old Town" closes the set, with Kerr and Brown in duet as it is remade in the Glaswegian rockers' likeness. Walk Between Worlds offers further proof that Simple Minds can flaunt what they are because they finally understand just who they are.

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