Album Review – Thompson Twins “Box”

PF WilsonAlbum Review, MusicLeave a Comment

Thompson Twins Box Set

Funny thing the Internet and streaming music. First of all, we all have to move away from this myth that “everything’s available to stream.” It’s not. Some stuff is available, then it’s not available. Parts of artists’ catalogs are missing, then they’re up, then they’re down again. Some stuff has never been available for streaming and never will be. Many are absent for no apparent reason. Such is the case with Thompson Twins.

For years, you could stream their biggest album Into the Gap, along with follow-ups, Here’s to Future Days, Close to the Bone, and Big Trash. You could stream their second album, but not their first (not released in the U.S.), OR their third, the one that first got them recognition in North America, Sidekicks (Quick Step and Sidekick outside of North America).

Sidekicks contains “Love on Your Side,” “Lies,” and “If You Were Here,” made famous in the John Hughes film Sixteen Candles. There are many greatest hits packages that have these songs, but if you wanted “Tears,” “Love Lies Bleeding,” “Judy Do,” or “Kamikaze,” you were out of luck.

Then suddenly, this past January, a box set popped up, along with the missing pieces of the band’s catalog. The physical version of the box set came out in 2010 and is made up of the band’s first five albums, all released through BMG/Arista. Oddly, their sixth album, Close to the Bone is not included for some reason.

Box it up

The box set was deleted after a few years. In the early teens, the band’s founder and chief creative force, Tom Bailey, was selling the expanded versions that made up the box set on his website. However, those vanished after a few years.

Then, earlier this year, the box set turned up on streaming platforms, as did all the individual albums. Now the entire catalog is available, and man, oh, man is it something. Even the last few albums on Warner Brothers are serviceable.

One nice thing about streaming is the listener can easily customize a band’s discography. For Thompson Twins, it’s advised you start with the box set simply called Box. From there you can add the track “Nothing in Common,” from the compilation Love, Lies, and Other Strange Things. Follow that with the remaining albums plus “Play with Me” from the film Cool World, and you’re sorted on Thompson Twins.

Hippy roots

The band’s trajectory is interesting. They started as a bunch of hippies knocking about the Midlands before heading to London. A Product of…(Participation), their debut from 1981, is a mish-mash of folk songs, political tomes, pop, and glam. The final track, “Vendredi Saint,” a Gregorian chant. Tom Bailey was on to these a decade before Michael Cretu and his Enigma project got us obsessed (and later sick to death of)  this 9th century art form.  Box gives you 11 (!) bonus tracks from this album, including a few remixes.

The follow-up, 1982’s Set, is a bit more consistent. It takes the band’s hippy vibe and folds it into the post-punk/new wave sound that was then becoming entrenched in England. On Box you get eight bonus tracks again including a few remixes. The most significant track from the sophomore effort is, of course, “In The Name of Love.” As the story goes, Bailey, along with bandmates Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway, concocted this track late one night in the studio as a mere filler. Though it only go to #79 in the U.K., it became a huge dance it in America, spending five weeks at #1 on the U.S. dance chart. The band’s management was so enthused, they encouraged Bailey, Currie, and Leeway to sack the rest of the band and continue as a trio. Which they did. In the U.S., most of Set, with two tracks from A Product of…, made up the bulk of the band’s U.S. debut, In The Name of Love.

New look Twins

Heading off to Egypt, and then the Bahamas, the new look Thompson Twins rolled out Quick Step and Side Kick (just Sidekicks in the U.S., and Canada, thank you). Continuing the course set by “In The Name of Love,” the band’s third album is a synth pop masterpiece. The only traditional instrument used, a bass guitar, was later removed in favor of a clavinet patch on one of the synthesizers played at the very bottom end of the scale. The album also established the Twins as one of the era’s most re-mixable bands, as all four singles from the album were released in 12-inch versions. To that end, most of the extra tracks here are remixes, including the two b-sides, “Lucky Day” and “Beach Culture.” The album’s first two singles, “Lies” and “Love on Your Side” received quite a bit of exposure on MTV, while charting in the U.K. “Lies” gave the group its first U.S. top 40 hit as it reached #30.

Global success

That paved the way for their worldwide smash LP Into the Gap. Like Sidekicks, on Box just about every track, including the two b-sides, is remixed at least once. These include their biggest hit, “Hold Me Now” (US #3, UK#4) as well as “Doctor! Doctor!” (US#11 UK#3), and their biggest UK hit, “You Take Me Up” (#2). There’s also a very fine megamix made of songs from both albums plus “In The Name of Love.”

That trend continues with the Here’s to Future Days tracks. That album features “Lay Your Hands on Me” (US #6, UK #13) in U.S. and U.K. single versions as well as remixes. “King for a Day” (US #8, UK #22) is also on this album. Remixes and b-sides abound. However, oddly, the song “Roll Over” is presented in its original version. That track was slated to be the second single from the album but was pulled at the last minute. A newer version appeared on the original release of Here’s to Future Days, but on streaming platforms that album does not contain the song in any form. The version that wound up on the album originally is not available anywhere.

Winding down

As stated previously, their last album for Arista, 1987’s Close to the Bone, which finds the classic line-up reduced from two to three after the departure of Joe Leeway, is not included in Box. That album contained the minor hit “Get That Love” (US #31). Also not included are, of course the final two albums of the band’s career, 1989’s Big Trash and 1991’s Queer, both released by Warner Brothers. Those missing albums, though, are currently streamable.

The physical version of Box is long out of print, but is currently available on streaming platforms—for now.

(Visited 136 times, 2 visits today)
PF WilsonAlbum Review – Thompson Twins “Box”