By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
THOMPSON TWINS – INTO THE GAP (1984)
Back when I was still listening to Casey Kasem imploring me to keep reaching for the stars every week, I was really into the Thompson Twins song “Hold Me Now”. It seems strange to me now that I loved the song so much at a time when my musical appetites were in the midst of a seismic shift, but so be it. I loved “Hold Me Now” back then, and even now when I hear the song on the easy listening station I have to listen to at work, I still get a pleasurable sense of nostalgia whenever they play this song.
The Thompson Twins had several incarnations and three albums prior to the release of the Into The Gap album. But it was this album and a reduction of the band down to a trio that saw the group experience the biggest success of their career as the album went platinum in the US and sold over 5 million copies worldwide.
The trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway were the last members standing from the earlier versions of the band and they really captured a perfect musical moment. The band was credited with writing all the music and Currie providing the lyrics. But despite loving “Hold Me Now”, I never actually went out and bought the album. I’d heard the “Doctor! Doctor!” song on the radio as well but that’s it. There are seven other tracks that I can’t recall ever hearing until I decided to write about the album for this article.
An odd note about the album is that it had several different track orders depending on which version of the album you bought at the time of its release. I checked Wikipedia and the version I have isn’t even listed if you can believe that!
Anyway, the first track on my version of the album is the aforementioned “Doctor! Doctor!” and while I know it was a moderately successful single, it really didn’t strike that nostalgic chord with me as I listened to it. In fact, a lot of the material for this album would fall into the “okay but not much more than filler” category for me.
It’s funny to me because these days artists are starting to kill off the idea of doing full studio albums and just release singles whenever they have a new song to share with the music world. After listening to the full Into The Gap album, I think the group would’ve been better off just releasing singles back in 1984. Of course, then there’d be the debate over which tracks those would’ve been. I know that because the songs that eventually got chosen as singles aside from “Hold Me Now” and “Doctor! Doctor!” weren’t songs I ended up caring about all that much.
The two other main single picks were problematic for me. “You Take Me Up” moved rather slowly with Tom Bailey’s vocals coming off as a bit disengaged from the musical backing during the main lyrical verses. The chorus gave his singing more focus but it made for a rather disjointed combination. Meanwhile, “Sister of Mercy” just completely fell flat to my ears.
The fifth single was “The Gap” but there seemed to be little in the way of a promotional push for that song since they didn’t even bother to make a video for that one. Which is a shame because it had an intense musical vibe to it, giving the song some additional heft to it, in my opinion. I really liked that one.
As for the rest of the tracks on the album, they were of adequate quality but never really rose to the point of making me want to hear them again. “Storm On The Sea” was a particularly painful exercise to get through.
While the success of “Hold Me Now” will always be a prideful musical moment for me, I am glad that I never went out and bought Into The Gap when the album was a hit. I would’ve been profoundly disappointed in just how ineffectual I found the majority of the rest of the music on the album. As one who is still proud of my pop music fandom of the past, disappointment is definitely the watchword for this album.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Joe Leeway left the group in 1986 with Currie and Bailey continuing on as a duo for a number of years. They later changed the name of the group to Babble and released two studio albums under that banner.
Alannah Currie and Tom Bailey were married for 12 years before divorcing. She is out of the music business these days and works as an artist. Bailey has toured as Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey on various nostalgia themed tours in recent years.
In 2008, Edsel Records released a 2 disc CD edition of Into The Gap.