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Simple Minds - Direction of the Heart (Album Review)

Thursday, 03 November 2022 Written by Graeme Marsh

With much of Simple Minds’ most recognisable line-up having departed at various points during the past 40 years, Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill are now the only mainstays who provide the face of the band as they head into their 60s. It’s not just the two of them these days, of course, but those who were there with them at the start will likely see it that way.

As such, their appeal has been similarly diluted—decent musicians have come into the fold, and yet it’s not the same band that you grew up with. But, with Kerr and Burchill, the main creative forces within Simple Minds since the band’s formation in 1977, still keeping each other in check, things aren’t as different as it may initially appear.

More recent albums have seen them looking back to the new wave of their early days, before stadium-filling ambition took them to a whole new global audience.

For album 18, though, they have revisited the mid-career phase when, following their assault on America and accompanying enormous hit singles, things had started to simmer down. At that stage, their albums took on a grand, wholesome feel that stood in contrast to their vibrant post-punk roots.

‘Direction of the Heart’ opens with Vision Thing, an inoffensive soft-rock number built around a riff that briefly recalls Edwyn Collins’ A Girl Like You—it’s a little tired and unoriginal, but it’s appealing nonetheless.

Sparks’ Russell Mael guests on Human Traffic, one of a number of tracks to tackle current affairs with its lyrics telling us “the whole world is playing human traffic” while “high on fumes and misery”. But the upbeat track is an odd choice for this material. It probably needed a more mundane, depressing backdrop to truly convey its message.

Kerr’s voice isn’t what it once was, and his performance ebbs and flows. His warbling reveals his age on both late ‘70s cut Act of Love, which finally gets an album spot, and the dancey Planet Zero, which is nevertheless a highlight of the LP’s second half. First You Jump aims for that ‘Once Upon A Time’ grandiosity but the centrepiece of the album, Solstice Kiss, is where its heart lies. A Celtic backdrop that recalls their only UK number one, Belfast Child, kicks in from the start. Unlike its cousin, it relies less on a slow build.

Written in Sicily and recorded in Hamburg, ‘Direction of the Heart’ may not recapture the heights of old, or indeed invoke memories of their best days from the early 1980s, but it just about stands up against the majority of Simple Minds’ back catalogue.

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