Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thompson Twins
Remixes & Rarities
**** (out of 5)

The year 2014 has been a great one for fans of the Thompson Twins. First, frontman Tom Bailey announced his return to the concert stage to perform TT classics for the first time since 1987 as part of the Retro Futura tour. A few months later as fans barely got over the fact that they will be seeing the enigmatic Bailey live once again, there was the announcement of a new double-disc collection on the horizon entitled Remixes & Rarities.

An 'odds & sods' collection such as this are usually not the cause for much celebration but this album is the first Twins release of note since the reissue of the band’s first 5 albums in 2008. But while those discs were plagued by weak liner notes and questionable remastering, the new collection has been remastered from the original master tapes and sounds like it. This is absolutely the best these tracks have sounded since their respective vinyl debuts.

While Remixes & Rarities mostly sticks to the classics - there are a few choice ‘deep cuts’ along the way - this is not a simple "greatest hits remixed" compilation. Instead this collection offers a revelatory look at the songs since the music of the Thompson Twins lends itself perfectly to the extended format. The original recordings of these songs were deceptively dense so the 9 1/2 minute extended cut of Hold Me Now peels back each layer of sound one at a time, allowing certain parts to jump out in the mix and gently enveloping you in their percussion-heavy groove.

As an added bonus, the liner notes in this set are excellent, consisting of a career-spanning interview with Tom Bailey by Paul Sinclair from While many retrospectives suffer from the interviewees "lack of detail" - i.e they were too drunk to remember, the lucid Bailey offers up nuggets of information in every paragraph such as the surprising fact that despite the variety of sounds contained within, the entire Quick Step and Sidekick album was recorded with a single drum machine and one Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer! Aside from Alannah Currie's omniprescient percussion, the rest of the instrumentation could have fit into the trunk of a car!
The Thompson Twins dominated the international pop music scene of the early/mid 80’s with their trio of synth pop masterpieces: 1983's Quick Step and Sidekick (Sidekicks for us Yanks), 1984's Into the Gap and 1985's now-ironically titled, Here's to Future Days. While never a favorite of critics during their hey day, the music of the Thompson Twins has aged better than any of their detractors could have predicted. Like many of their fellow New Wave brethren (Duran Duran, OMD, Depeche Mode, etc.) who now enjoy massive acclaim, the synth pop pendulum has now swung entirely in the Twins favor.

Perhaps having just wrapped the Retro Futura tour and the release of Remixes & Rarities, the time is right for a more critical re-evaluation of the music of the Thompson Twins - “Here’s to Future Days” indeed.