For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.
In a weird way, for me, The Thompson Twins define what made the 1980s music scene so…outlandishly 1980s. They wrote synth-fueled, harmony-laden poppy new wave, and… They wore zany clothes! They had absolutely frigging enormous hair! They lacked eyebrows! (Well, two of them did.)
Yes, really. Eyebrows. The Thompson Twins were a trio (of course: ZANY!) of unrelated folks (two of whom eventually married) (and are now divorced) who, at one point, were painfully poor. They wanted to do *something* unexpected with their eyes, to make the band more of a visual standout, but colored contacts cost money. Shaving, however, was (practically) free, et voila! Two of the three non-family twins engaged in regular eyebrow maintenance, and the look* for a band was born.
*as long as you add giant duck-billed hats, yards of baggy satin jackets and a treasure chest’s worth of ersatz pearls to that look.
I totally loved the album Into The Gap. I still have it, it still makes its way onto my turntable every now and again. It had their biggest hits on it, most notably the song “Doctor! Doctor!”. Don’t worry. I’ll include the video for that song, soon enough, but first! We discuss the Twins.
Also, please note: I know they released other albums besides Into The Gap. But I didn’t really care about those albums, except for a select song or two. Sorry, The Thompson Twins. It’s not personal.
Everybody I knew liked The Thompson Twins (or at least, grudgingly admitted they did not hate said Twins and if you knew my friends you’d realize that NEVER happens), and owned their very own copy of Into The Gap. It was a ginormous seller. Sold a bajillion copies world-wide. Generated a Thompson Twins world tour. Heavy video rotation on MTV! Caused young men to take an inordinate interest in long, skinny rat tails! And created a side business of swanky shwag, like the very pin I have pictured above. It was GREAT! In 1984-85 The Thompson Twins were riding high and yet….
And yet, they never got away from their supremely ’80s sound, which stopped being interesting by the end of the ’80s, and the group disbanded in 1993. I still have Into The Gap on vinyl, but I could never quite make the move to get it on CD, or leapfrog over physical media and get a digital copy. I could do that, I suppose (she said, with an unconvincing attempt at enthusiasm in her voice).
But the thing is, they are SO completely 1980s, it feels almost anachronistic of me to play them in any other media, which doesn’t necessarily happen for every artist in my collection. I have no problem with Katrina and the Waves in my iPod. How else am I supposed to bop around to my own private music collection that feeds right into my earbuds? But for the Twins…I don’t know. Digitizing their music feels wrong, somehow.
Maybe if I had a cassette I could play on a Sony Walkman…maybe that would feel more authentic to me. Right on, Thompson Twins! Right? Kind of? Know what I mean? Sort of? Hang on a minute, while I switch my cassingle and adjust my awkwardly-sized, generally inconvenient and kind of sweaty mini-headphones.
Hahahahahaha! I said “cassingle”. Moving on.
I love The Thompson Twins, but they are my 1980s music equivalent of Han Solo frozen in a block of carbonite. Kind of grandiose and almost mythical, but ultimately, stuck pretty tight in one spot.
Nothing about them progressed. Nothing about them moved forward. Putting a Thompson Twins album on to play is a great way to get an aural photograph of the ’80s scene. But it wouldn’t work in a Zumba class. Kudos to the Twins for not slipping into the nostalgia trap and trotting their old chestnuts out for a reunion tour. Stay in the carbonite, beloved Twins, where we can worship you at a distance and bedazzle your music in the glossy, soft-focus sheen of memory.
Here’s the video for “Doctor! Doctor!” which–quite sensibly–embodies everything that was happening in the 1980s video era. Big hair, moody lighting, superimposed giant piano-playing hands, harlequin masks, raggedy clothing, purple gloves, expansive hand gestures, inexplicable shots of fringe-drenched figure skaters…I never could make heads or tails of it and yet…
And yet, this video is frigging awesome.