Simple Minds: Direction of The Heart – UK – DLX CD 
- Vision Thing
- First You Jump
- Human Traffic
- Who Killed Truth?
- Solstice Kiss
- Act of Love
- Planet Zero
- The Walls Came Down
- Direction of the Heart (Taormina 2022)
Well, it’s been the requisite four years since the last Simple Minds opus. I really thought that “Walk Between Worlds” was the best album by Simple Minds since “Sparkle In the Rain,” but I could say that about six of their albums over the ’94-’18 period. For the most part, their modern albums reside in a place that I enjoy far better than their stadium period [’85-’93] while acknowledging that there’s nothing they could do to top their initial run of eight albums. Which is my favorite run of albums of all time. How would the new one stack up? Well, I pre-ordered the deluxe digibook and it’s been in house for three weeks as I’ve been busy primarily with the Spoons/Rob Preuss thread. I’ve listen to it many times since and let’s examine how it stacks up against their well-known legacy.
The wispy, insubstantial soft synths that heralded the opener, “Vision Thing,” were shocking in their meretricious flimsiness. They sounded appropriate for a band that had no ties to Post-Punk, much less being a foundational band of that movement. I was shocked at how the new album opened with a gesture that was so middle-of-the-road in an era where in order to capture ears that will swipe the “next button” at almost no provocation demand an all-guns-blazing approach. This sure wasn’t it. Nor were the guitar loops [at least they sounded like loops] that arrived with the drums. There was a mournful guitar line that sounded real buried in the intro that was potentially of interest but Alan Moulder’s mix seemed to be accentuating all of the other elements at its expense.
The arrival of Jim Kerr on the vocals was another sore point as he was delivering his vocals with an affected phrasing and worse still, singsong staccato delivery that had each syllable right on one of the beats. That is not one of my favorite things as I’m a fan of legato singing. This song was not starting out to inspire confidence, but by the time it got to the chorus, it seemed to correct its trajectory somewhat. It was also nice hearing Gary Clark’s distinctive tones on the backing vocals as it’s been long years since I’ve heard him, and I was a big fan of Danny Wilson. But this was a case of a good song being compromised by decisions in sound design, production, and the mix. I find that the song, which was the first pre-release teaser track [can we still call them singles?] manages to stick with me well enough, but it’s a situation where listening to the actual record, instead of my mental Walkman®, put all of the details that I find wanting in sharp relief.
Fortunately, the next track, also a “single,” was a case of “First You Jump” having a much more satisfying heft to its sound; matching the caliber of the song much better. First al all, Charlie was playing guitar with gusto here. Adding his meaty tone to an arrangement that also had Ged Grimes playing bass expressively on the track which he co-wrote with Jim and Charlie. Jim Kerr was back in his vocal sweet spot in his delivery, and indeed, he would be staying there for the rest of the album. Making his odd delivery on the first track an aberration. And Gary Clark’s backing vocals were stout and vigorous here in a way that took this song above the level of perfunctory. I daresay one could slot this track into the flow on “Graffiti Soul” and it would sound right at home. It’s a glorious song with an equally glorious video, shot locally in Kerr’s homebase of Taormina, Italy.
Next: …More Sparks Of Life