Sound — 7
It seems as though it became most difficult for artists categorized under the "new wave" label to remain relevant - commercially or otherwise - during the rise of grunge in the early 1990s. While hard rock and glam metal artists are most readily noted for facing steep challenges during this time period, the synthesizer-laced pop rock style of new wave acts was perhaps the the exact opposite of music from the time period. This became particularly apparent for the members of Simple Minds, which we can find in their release history; what became regularly compilations of new material once every couple of years soon degressed into an album that arrived every three or four years, often to uninterested or unaware ears.
Having progressed past that era and into a more accessible medium with the assistance of modern technological advances, Simple Minds have returned with their sixteenth studio album of distinctive rock, which galivants enough modern pop music elements to remain musically relevant, while retaining a substantial amount of synth-fueled vocal harmonies to lure in familiar listeners. "Big Music" takes its name from a title often attributed by the band's dedicated followers, and this new album isn't in any way the exception: punching guitar work, heavy electronic percussion arrangements, protruding bass lines, and melodic refrains are all in full gear here.
Such selections as "Midnight Walking" and "Honest Town" reinforce the approach previously found on such earlier releases as 1982's "New Gold Dream," where enough emphasis is placed towards the actual chord progressions to deliver a solid rock edge to the splew of keyboard driven post-punk compositions, while "Blood Diamonds" could have very well stepped right out of the past with it's dance pop grooves and the moody lyrical delivery of lead vocalist Jim Kerr. "Imagination" comes rolling out of the gate with a guitar lick heavily reminiscent of The Cult, before ultimately transitioning into a new wave anthem for the ages, whereas the band's take on The Call's "Let the Day Begin" splices off the original renditions aching guitar lines for somewhat awkward reimaginings on the synthesizer. Perhaps what truly sets this album apart from the most recent additions to the Simple Minds catalog is the fact that rather than abandoning their distinctive approach in favor of such acts as The Killers or Manic Street Preachers, bands who were influenced by their earlier efforts, the members of this veteran collective revert to the same sound they're most readily recognized for while introducing enough contemporary pop elements to remain commercially relevant.
Lyrics — 7
Lead vocalist Jim Kerr has maintained his position at the helm of Simple Minds since their formation in 1977, and has similarly managed to keep his register in admirable shape considering his longevity. Now granted, Kerr's recognizable lyrical delivery largely remains in his lower octave, and we're not just about to hear any redefining primal screams or death metal growls at this stage in his career, however that doesn't take away from the fact that Kerr's voice has become an essential quality to the "signature" Simple Minds sound, and he keeps the degree of their chemistry he's particularly responsible for in good form on this new offering.
Overall Impression — 7
In short, Simple Minds deliver a compilation of romanticized new wave compositions fuzed with relevant contemporary pop elements on their new studio album "Big Music," while managing to ultimately end up on the winning side of that stylistic gamble.