THOMPSON TWINS Into The Gap
1 Doctor! Doctor! 4:39 (UK single, #3)
2 You Take Me Up 4:27 (UK single, #2)
3 Day After Day 3:52
4 Sister Of Mercy 5:11 (UK single, #11)
5 No Peace For The Wicked 4:05
6 The Gap 4:47
7 Hold Me Now 4:47 (UK single, #4)
8 Storm On The Sea 5:33
9 Who Can Stop The Rain 5:46
No amount of revisionism is ever going to convince me that the Thompson Twins were not a huge deal between 1983 and 1985. From their Top 40 breakthrough with Love On Your Side, right up until the sublime luxury pop of Lay Your Hands On Me, they could do little wrong.
Quickstep & Sidekick, from 1983, has a better reputation among critics and pop historians, probably because it had more of an eye on the dancefloor and thus had an edge and wasn’t betraying their roots (or something). The usual pro-authenticity nonsense which has helped to ruin popular music.
Anyway, the high watermark of the Twins’ mini Imperial Phase was their 1984 opus, Into The Gap. Released very early in the year, on the back of consecutive UK Top 5 hits (Hold Me Now and Doctor! Doctor!) it debuted at #1 and went multi-platinum, spending 51 weeks on the chart. The first three singles had peaks of 4, 3 and 2, suggesting a build-up of momentum and popularity at odds with how they are viewed through the narrow prism of retro-culture.
Its main problem, in terms of being favourably viewed by today’s judges, is what made it such a peerless album at the time; the sheer craftsmanship on display, the absence of self-indulgence, the tightness of the writing, the exemplary production from the late Alex Sadkin. This is a world away from buskers and attention-seekers, wringing their hands in authentic self-expression. It might not shed an ounce of light into the inner workings of Tom Bailey’s mind, but Into The Gap is probably the most perfectly realised pop record, in terms of putting 9 or 10 potential singles onto an album, that I have ever heard.
I may be slightly biased, since this was the very first album (cassette, in fact) that I bought. Actually, I didn’t even get to buy it myself, as I got struck down with a vicious flu bug that week and had to ask my trusty Mum if she could go into town on the Saturday and get me the new Thompson Twins on tape. So the first two dozen times I heard Into The Gap was through a slightly hallucinatory haze, which might have added to the surreal experience of listening to an album I’d bought with my own pocket-money (4.49…the WH Smiths price card was still in the case, and I kept it for years…).
Fault could be found with the sleeve (a horribly cheap-looking photo montage), but other than that Into The Gap is flaw-free from start to finish (though one wag in Number One magazine called Storm On The Sea “wishy-washy”..ho ho ho). If it’s formulaic at times, then it’s the best formula of all-time, an example of how brilliant pop music can be when it abandons trying to make a Big Statement or say anything Very Important. This is pure escapism, the Twins creating a self-contained world where even the “message” of The Gap (two different colours on the map!) feels more like an anthem for that universe, than any great commentary on the real Cold War or East/West relations in general.
You get the feeling that, much like Jeff Lynne of ELO, the music comes first and gets the most attention lavished upon it, and the lyrics are simply there to fit in and match the mood. Which is perfectly fine when the tunes are this good, the instrumentation this intricate and imaginative.
Ironically, the band would trip themselves up on the very next album (Here’s To Future Days) by abandoning the golden rules they’d laid out on Into The Gap and writing from the point of view of rich and weary pop stars with a conscience.
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[…] Into The Gap duly identified as my top album of the week (as though there could be any others!), I set to work on how to construct a Top 30 to exist alongside the Singles Top 40s I’d been compiling since the start of 1984. This is where the multi-coloured charts at the back of No.1 magazine proved priceless, with the info for peak positions and how long they’d been around helping to give me an idea of what had been going on in the UK albums market over recent months. […]