Album #48: Thompson Twins – Into the Gap

  • Released: 1984
  • Origin: Sheffield, England
  • Label: Arista
  • Best Track: Hold Me Now

It’s my birthday this weekend, and in a complete vanity project, I thought I’d find out what was number one in the UK album charts on the day I was born, and give it a listen and review.

I’ve known for some time that ’99 Red Balloons’ by Nena topped the singles chart that week, but I’ve never bothered to look at the number one album, for some reason. It turns out it was the fourth album from synth-poppy new wavers Thompson Twins, spending its third week as the best selling LP. I’m pretty sure my dad has this record on vinyl, but I’ve never listened to it. In fact, the only song I could’ve named by the band before listening to this was opener ‘Doctor! Doctor!’, although I’ve realised I was familiar with ‘Hold Me Now’ too – a nice single that I’ve heard a few times and wondered who it was by. The key change for the line ‘Stay with me’ is pretty iconic.

The trio (yes, the Twins were actually Triplets!) were expanding into a much poppier, radio-friendly sound than their post-punk origins by the mid-1980s. Simpler times maybe, but that sort of transition didn’t seem to irk music snobs in the way it does today.

The whole album is listenable, at times danceable, but also a little forgettable. Even for a decade as time sensitive as the ’80s, it’s probably fair to say this album hasn’t aged too well. It’s interesting to read that an April 1984 review in Canadian magazine Music Express called Into the Gap “a distinctive milestone on how far new music has come in the past few years”. Ironic, therefore, that 36 years on, the album sounds so dated. This is really brought home on the song ‘The Gap’ – a well-intended but, to the 2020 ear, pretty clumsy Westernised call for racial harmony. “East is east, west is west/Two different colors on the map/We say break the line, chew the fat/And keep moving out into the gap”, the band rally, interspersed with the odd bit of quasi-Indian/Egyptian sitar(?) just in case the message was too subtle.

The closest band I can think to compare Thompson Twins to is XTC, but they seem to have retained some indie cred over the decades since and are often name-dropped as an influence on modern innovative bands of today, like the fantastic Squid. Many of their Sheffield contemporaries like the Human League and Cabaret Voltaire have also stood the test of time rather better. Even so, Into the Gap is a decent enough pop record for its day, and today can be seen as a piecing together of post-punk’s journey into new wave, and eventually commercial pop.

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