Last week I pulled the fine Edsel DLX RMs of “Quick Step And Side Kick” and “Into The Gap” and gave them a spin as it had been a while. I came to The Thompson Twins via their college chart blockbuster “In The Name Of Love” in early 1982. I had heard the ace tune on WPRK-FM and I had certainly liked what I’d heard… a lot! When their US debut of the same name hit the stores, I didn’t wait to get a cheap used copy!
That record was cobbled together from their second UK album “Set,” along with a pair of cuts from their 1981 debut “A Product Of… Participation.” I soon read about these records but tracking down both of them in their initial UK editions proved challenging. The first one I found in the 99¢ bin at Vinyl Fever nearly 20 years ago, but any copy of “Set” proved to be more elusive. I found a Mexican pressing as late as 2008 while shopping in Portland!
But back in the real time experience of being a Thompson Twins fan, I was shocked by the 1983 schism that saw the seven piece band that I loved rupture and the trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie, and Joe Leeway embrace technopop and become huge stars the world over. I bought the US third album, renamed “Side Kicks” here for no good reason I can discern. It was good but something had been lost in the move to synthesizers. The textures of their large band were now replaced by glossy keyboards. Inasmuch as I am a “keyboards guy” I soon came to prefer their earlier, more distinctive sound from their Hansa albums. I would not buy any more Thompson Twins records following their line-in-the-sand MOR pop smash “Hold Me Now.” At least until just a few years ago, when Edsel released a 2xCD DLX RM of “Into The Gap,” chock full of B-sides and remixes.
I’d heard and enjoyed “You Take Me Up” but for the most part, yeah, the album takes a sharp turn from left-field pop into boring MOR, with one stark exception. The de facto title cut “The Gap,” wipes the floor with the unexciting pap that was “Into The Gap’s” stock-in-trade! I soon found myself playing this track on repeat in my car; a new leaf for me. The thing that makes the track work like a fiend for me, is that not only does it have a pulse, next to such torpid fare as “Sister Of Mercy,” but that its heart beats with the robust power of none other than Blancmange!
Don’t just take my word for it. Tom Bailey sought the tablas of Blancmange sideman Pandit Dinesh for this track, which comes as close to replicating Blancmange in all of their glory as is possible! It is successful to the extent that when listening to the instrumental dub version that was on the cassette version [a bonus track on disc two], I can sing along doing my Neil Arthur impersonation and you would swear that the result is Blancmange and definitely not The Thompson Twins. That feature alone makes my decision to try out the “Into The Gap” album 24 years ex post facto ultimately worthwhile, even as the album confirmed my youthful suspicions in spades.
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