With Walk Between Worlds, Simple Minds have a challenging task ahead of them: how does a band famous for a 1980s sound keep that sound relevant and not dated in today’s musical landscape? Simple Minds succeed at that task, by effortlessly mixing their 1980s sound with more modern indie/alternative stylings.
The first song off the album, “Magic,” is such a strong start and such a perfect showpiece for what Simple Minds want to do. It opens with a remarkably 1980s sound, a stunningly impressive recreation of the era. However, a few bars later, the synths start sounding more modern and the chords shift to a more alternative sound. It goes from 1980s synthpop to modern synthpop and keeps that blend and shifting sound throughout the entire song (and album!).
“Magic” is a standout in an album without many standouts. Walk Between Worlds is a solidly crafted album: there aren’t any absolute clunkers, but there won’t be any songs that end up stuck in your head. A dark, atmospheric yet restrained mood colors the whole album: Simple Minds have their sound and they’re sticking to it. The album as a whole is a paradox of amazingly well put together songs that don’t stand out at all. The vocals are relatively understated and don’t show much vocal range. However, the understated tone fits the songs and the performance makes it worse. All of the songs are longer than four minutes and relatively close to the same time. And yet, some feel immensely long while others could easily use thirty more seconds. It’s an odd album where all arrows point to ‘solidly okay’.
The familiar sound is a double edge sword. Because Simple Minds is drawing upon this 1980s to early 1990s sound, occasionally the songs sound enough like a previously established piece of music or artist to throw you out of the mood. There will be moments where out of nowhere, I would think “Oh, this sounds vaguely like DREAMCAR” or “Oh, I’m getting some Sisters of Mercy vibes from this.” The worst offender was “Sense of Discovery,” a song that I spent the entire chorus trying to think of what it reminded me of, only to have some fruitless google searches in the end.
This is a good album. It’s well-crafted with tight production values: the album sounds amazing and the technical work is superb. However, it isn’t all that memorable and there isn’t much to differ this album from any other album by a 1980s band that still tries to keep some of the 1980s sound. Still, if one’s looking for a good solid synthpop album where 1980s synthpop mix with an indie flourish, you can’t go wrong than Walk Between Worlds.