May 31, 2018

Silverchair - Frogstomp (1995)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Grunge, Alternative Rock
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© 1995 Epic, Murmur
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Silverchair's debut album, Frogstomp, faithfully follows the alternative rock tradition of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, which means that the group of Australian teenagers winds up sounding not like their idols, but like Stone Temple Pilots and Bush. For their age, their instrumental capabilities are quite impressive, as the guitars and vocals growl with the force of rockers in their early twentiess. At the same time, their songwriting abilities aren't as strong, and they are never able to break away from the standard grunge formula. Nevertheless, the record does deliver a collection of songs replicating the thunder of "Tomorrow."

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Silverchair - Freak Show (1997)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Alternative Rock, Grunge
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© 1997 Murmur
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Silverchair were slaves to their influences on their debut Frogstomp, but on their second album Freak Show, they're beginning to show signs of developing their own style. While they may still concentrate too heavily on Pearl Jam and Nirvana, they're beginning to fuse the elements together in a more interesting way and are writing stronger hooks. Freak Show still has its share of mediocre moments, and Daniel Johns should try to sing instead of scream, but the album shows potential that Frogstomp never did.

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Silverchair - Diorama (2002)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge, Alternative Rock
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© 2002 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Bradley Torreano
One of the few true shocks in rock music is when a young band with a seemingly short shelf life manages to transform itself into a cohesive, enduring, and artistically diverse outfit. Take Silverchair, whose plodding angst anthems were the subject of much ridicule during the group's initial splash. But they somehow kept going and kept improving, and Diorama is the sound of a band finally growing into their own skin. These songs have a sense of space and tunefulness that was always missing from the band's previous efforts, and the production (by David Bottrill, with orchestrations courtesy of Van Dyke Parks) brings to mind everything from the charging anthems of Big Country to U2's first experiments with Brian Eno. Singer Daniel Johns steps into the forefront here, showcasing his rich voice and shockingly catchy, twisting tunes with melodies that are hardly predictable but often delightful. His efforts recall deceased singer/songwriter Josh Clayton-Felt, as they utilize a similar vocal approach and channel the same sort of psychedelic soul on tracks like "Tuna in the Brine." A song like "World Upon Your Shoulders" sounds utterly unlike the post-grunge efforts of Johns' earlier work, but in one song he takes the washed-out symphonies of Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips and the delicate falsetto pop of Jeff Buckley and combines them into a digestible pop nugget. The solid guitar work from Johns also shows growth, as the songs often drift into Edge-like noodling that compliments his voice much more than the chugging riffs of their first few albums. "Without You"'s Goo Goo Dolls-lite is an unwelcome twist, taking their newfound sense of melody and giving it a blustery chorus that robs the track of its power. The thick "One Way Mule" is another minor disappointment, reverting back to Silverchair's grunge sound for a song that has little of the intelligence and beauty of the rest of the album. But mostly this is a wonderful surprise from a band thought to have been finished in the late '90s. Being hesitant to give this a chance is perfectly understandable, but Silverchair has grown up and put together a fine mix of orchestral pop and rock on Diorama.

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Silverchair - Neon Ballroom (1999)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge, Alternative Rock
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© 1999 Epic, Murmur
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
Silverchair's third full-length release is a confusing affair that reveals a band more talented than their critics realized and more confused than their fans could tolerate. The Australian trio never made any secret of their respect for Nirvana, and on Neon Ballroom Silverchair does one of the best impersonations of their Seattle counterparts on record. It would be easy to convince any Kurt Cobain fan that "Spawn Again" and "Dearest Helpless" are actually In Utero outtakes, and quite good ones at that! When the weepy ballads, like the Goo Goo Dolls-esque "Miss You Love," pull Neon Ballroom into an overtly radio-friendly direction, all the promise of a gritty grunge tribute fades, and Silverchair appears to be serving two masters. The resultingly incongruent musical textures stifled Neon Ballroom and assured a certain amount of fan disenchantment despite the minor airplay success of "Ana's Song (Open Fire)." There are still enough nice moments on this CD to recommend it to even casual fans of the Aussie outfit. Those who had enough of Silverchair when modern rock radio played their mid-'90s hits to death need not concern themselves with this mixed effort.

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Silverchair - Young Modern (2007)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2007 Eleven
AllMusic Review by Clayton Bolger
Arguably, each album released by Silverchair has been an improvement on the last, or at least a marked change in direction. It is a natural progression for a band to evolve away from its early influences, and in this instance the world has listened to the boys become men. As major songwriter Daniel Johns' teenage angst turned into youthful enthusiasm and experimentation, there has been a distinct maturity in the band's songwriting and production. Gone are the heavy Sabbath riffs, the lazy adolescent poetry, and Ben Gillies trying to invoke Bonham or Moon. In their place are catchy melodic hooks, inspired lyrical themes, and stunning string arrangements. This album is the pinnacle of the band's fascinating development. Titled after Van Dyke Parks' nickname for Johns during their time together working on 2002's Diorama, Young Modern is a highly ambitious work that happily jumps from glam rock to sweeping orchestral pastiches and almost everywhere in between. Once the opening sonic aural frenzy of "Young Modern Station" effortlessly segues into the instant rock classic (and Aussie number one hit) "Straight Lines," there is an overwhelming feeling that all bets are off -- there has never been a Silverchair album like this. Diorama and 1998's Neon Ballroom offered a few musical surprises, but ultimately strayed into the familiar grunge-tinged formula that heavily peppered the band's first two long-players. You can hear in Johns' vocal performances a playfulness and energy that never dared show itself in previous works. There can be no doubt that his eclectic 2004 side project release with renowned DJ, remixer, and keyboard player Paul Mac as the Dissociatives opened Johns' musical landscapes wide open, and his vocals on this album are versatile enough to fit into each genre jump. Another contributing factor to the change of the band with this album is Julian Hamilton, of the Sydney duo the Presets, who appears on four of the 11 tracks as a co-writer (the last two Silverchair albums were completely written by Johns). Young Modern made history in the Australian music charts by becoming the fifth straight album by an Australian act to debut at the number one spot. Silverchair are also the only Australian act to achieve five number one albums, eclipsing native heavyweights INXS, Midnight Oil, and Cold Chisel.

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May 30, 2018

Deftones - Diamond Eyes (2010)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Metal
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© 2010 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
A long four years separate Diamond Eyes from Saturday Night Wrist, four years that were sadly packed with peril for Deftones. Bassist Chi Cheng suffered injuries so severe in a November 2008 auto accident the band took a hiatus, eventually honoring prior touring commitments by hiring Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega, and eventually cutting a full album with him on board and scrapping a near-completed album in the process. Given this serious trauma, it’s only logical that Diamond Eyes functioned as musical therapy for Deftones, but the surprise is that it has little downcast lyrical angst-mining, preferring atmosphere to bloodletting. Naturally, there is quite a bit of roiling darkness here -- they’re Cure-loving metalheads, it’s in their blood -- but there’s shade and light, control of texture, with the band deepening rather than expanding. Above all, it’s a mature album: Deftones skirted the obvious response to their tragedy, realizing that the left turn is a more rewarding journey.

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Deftones - Saturday Night Wrist (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Metal
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© 2006 Maverick
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Three long years after Deftones issued their self-titled album to puzzling reviews, the Sacramento quintet is back with Saturday Night Wrist, a recording that will further muddy the waters about who they are and what they're trying to do. After the breakthrough metallic-sounding Around the Fur, the band confounded critics and fans alike with the much softer and atmospherically adventurous White Pony. In 2003 they further transgressed the borderlines of all things boxed and tied with their self-titled album, which seemed to walk the line between rockist and "sensitive." But it's Saturday Night Wrist that fills out the portrait, bleeding though textures from one rock & roll type to another and coming up with something else altogether yet definitively "Deftones." The album began with a question and a small conflict in deciding on a producer. Already working with the hip Dan the Automator, after some internal drama the band decided on veteran Bob Ezrin. Ezrin pays off in a number of ways: these songs, as diverse as they are, are utterly disciplined sonically. They have all the tension and dynamic, all the immediacy of yore, but the mix is spacious, and Chino Moreno's vocals soar above it. That said, the vocals were produced by Far's Shaun Lopez. The wall of guitar sound walks a high wire between harder, more metallic rock and angular indie rock, winding them together. Check the opener -- and single -- "Hole in the Earth." It begins with a wall of feedback and thunderously distorted guitars accented by rim shots and cymbal fire before giving way to a skeletal six-string figure that seems barely able to support Moreno's singing, which combines the euphoria of a young, less pretentious Bono with the attack of, well, Deftones. Guitars echo and whisper all along the backdrop while Moreno hovers there, until they crackle and spit to bring him back.
Popping muddy drums and distorted guitars introduce "Rapture," as Moreno gobs and screams the lyrics. Even here, the attack is straightforward as it turns and twists, all on sharp corners and rhythmic shifts. There are killer digital dub effects put into play on "Cherry Waves," giving the tune a bit of a blessed-out psychedelic effect as the band marries together the hookery of the vintage Smashing Pumpkins, the big chord riffs of Jane's Addiction, and U2's best shimmer while tossing in a bridge of eight bars from the Who's "Overture" from Tommy! It might have been a terrible mess, but it works beautifully. System of a Down's Serj Tankian helps out with additional vocals on "Mein," and Giant Drag's Annie Hardy helps out on "Pink Cellphone" (what a dumb title). The drippy space pop that is "Xerces" finds Moreno breathing a little too close to Billy Corgan for comfort on the verses. The gear-grinding guitars on "Rats!Rats!Rats!" are a welcome textural change, and the crunchy verse and refrain are downright nasty. The most straight-ahead rock attack comes on "KimDracula," with its bass throb and whiteout guitar riff; it pushes Moreno a little further outside the tune to come to terms with it. Ultimately, Saturday Night Wrist is satisfying, though it may take a few listens given all the changes in individual cuts that tend to blur together the first time or two through. To the faithful, Deftones once again offer up their own brand of blast and croon. As for everyone else, there's plenty here to like, to argue with, and to be puzzled by.

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Deftones - Adrenaline (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 1995 Maverick, Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Daniel Gioffre
Adrenaline is an appropriate title for this, Deftones' debut album, as all ten tracks explode with repressed energy. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Deftones are very controlled even in the midst of chaos. The musical attack is precise and well organized without sounding mechanical or soulless. Simply put, this music is the product of a good old-fashioned band, with every element of the music fitting together nicely. One of the practical ways in which this expresses itself is the way that Deftones groove, a skill that most nu-metal bands have somehow managed to lose along the way. Throw Abe Cunningham's surprisingly sophisticated drumming into the mix, and you have a band that possesses a far greater degree of nuance than most others that work in the genre. If there is a weakness to Adrenaline, it is that there is a bit of sameness in Chino Moreno's whispered vocal melodies, which drags the record down a bit. On later albums, the band's progressive tendencies become more developed, but the more straight-ahead material on Adrenaline does not disappoint. A promising debut.

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Deftones - Around The Fur (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal, Alternative Metal
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Maverick, Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
While Deftones still rely more on form than content, they have noticeably improved on their second album, Around the Fur. Their sound has hardened into a blunt, aggressive slab of metallic guitars and hammering drums, giving the album a visceral force. Deftones tap into the same alternative metal vibe as Korn and L7, and while they don't have catchy riffs or a fully developed sound, Around the Fur suggests they're about to come into their own.

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Deftones - Deftones (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal, Alternative Rock
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© 2003 Maverick
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Deftones didn't really have a hard time with their third album, White Pony, since it received generally positive reviews and entered the Billboard charts at number three. However, the class of 2000/2001 nu-metalurgists overshadowed the group in terms of sales, even if they retained greater critical respect and a hardcore fan base, who nevertheless still registered some reluctance in regard to the artier, atmospheric, post-punk edges on White Pony. At first, their simply titled eponymous fourth album seems like a retreat from that territory, since as it opens with "Hexagram" it hits hard -- harder than they ever have, revealing how mushy Staind is, or how toothless Linkin Park is, even if it's a bit of a shame that Chino Moreno has resorted to guttural barking for singing. Deftones continue in that vein through much of the first half of the record, gradually working in more atmospheric numbers as the record draws to a close. That shift in mood has the strange effect of seeming confident at first, and then a retreat, even if the music they're retreating to is, by and large, more adventurous and reminiscent of White Pony. It feels as if Deftones feel compelled to strengthen their metallic roots and will sacrifice the very things that make them better and more interesting than the rest -- namely, their love of art rock, whether it's via the Cure or My Bloody Valentine. They don't abandon this impulse completely -- and when they marry it to their harder inclinations, the results are smashing, as on the lead single, "Minerva" -- which is welcome, since even if the harder stuff is done well (again, better than their peers), it doesn't carry nearly as much promise as when Deftones don't play by the nu-metal reviews. When they do play by the rules, they're good, but they're great when they don't follow a map. Deftones sticks a little too close to familiar territory this time around -- the sound is still good, but knowing that they have done a record like White Pony, this feels like a disappointment, especially because in its unevenness, it sounds like it is the album that should have come before this one.

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May 28, 2018

Soft Cell - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1981-1987 Vertigo Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
In the U.S., Soft Cell, the British duo of singer Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball, was a classic one-hit wonder, that hit being the remake of Gloria Jones' "Tainted Love," which dominated dance clubs and eventually peaked in the pop Top Ten with its synth-pop sound and Almond's plaintive vocal in 1981-1982. In the U.K., the group not only had a longer career, but also influenced a raft of similar performers. Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, originally released in Britain in the fall of 1981, contained both the band's first hit and its follow-up, "Bedsitter," its title referring to what in America would be called a studio apartment. (A third U.K. Top Five hit, "Say Hello Wave Goodbye," emerged from the LP.) At full album length, lyricist Almond's primary preoccupation, only suggested in "Tainted Love," was spelled out; this was a theme album about aberrant sexuality, a tour of a red-light district. The point was well made on "Sex Dwarf," with its oft-repeated chorus "Isn't it nice/Sugar and spice/Luring disco dollies to a life of vice?" Songs like "Seedy Films," "Entertain Me," and "Secret Life" expanded upon the subject. The insistent beats taken at steady dance tempos and the chilling electronic sounds conjured by Ball emphasized Almond's fascination with deviance; it almost seemed as though the album had been designed to be played in topless bars. British listeners saw through Almond's pretense or were amused by him, or both; more puritanical Americans tended to disapprove, which probably limited the group's long-term success stateside. But the music was undeniably influential. The 2002 CD reissue added two lengthy 12" single mixes of "Tainted Love," one of them a medley with the old Supremes hit "Where Did Our Love Go," the other a dub version.

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Winger - Winger (1988)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Glam Metal, Hard Rock
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© 1988 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Since Winger was marketed largely on the looks of lead singer Kip Winger, and since their sleazy rockers and lovelorn ballads cover the same old pop-metal territory, the band's high-quality musicianship tended to get overlooked. Guitarist Reb Beach earned wide praise from other musicians, and he, ex-Dixie Dregs drummer Rod Morgenstein, and keyboardist Paul Taylor bring a distinct progressive metal influence to many of the tunes on Winger. Even if the lyrics are standard issue, the album is impeccably composed, crafted, and played, with melodies, riffs, and guitar solos taking off in unexpected directions and keeping the listener slightly off balance -- no easy task in the cookie-cutter hair metal genre. The only misstep is an overdone, tight-assed, totally misguided recasting of "Purple Haze." Otherwise, Winger is a surprisingly accomplished debut.

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Winger - In The Heart of The Young (1990)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1990 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Winger's second album, In the Heart of the Young, continues in the same vein of slick, progressive-tinged, radio-ready pop-metal featured on their debut -- almost what Asia or 90125-era Yes might sound like as hair bands. The melodies and guitars still twist and turn in unpredictable directions, but the material on In the Heart of the Young isn't always as musically interesting as the songs on Winger. Plus, the inclusion of more ballads detracts from the overall energy. Still, there's enough here to make the album worthwhile for anyone who enjoyed its predecessor, especially in the absence of a best-of collection. "Miles Away" became a Gulf War love anthem, while "Can't Get Enuff" and "Easy Come Easy Go" are fine rockers that nevertheless failed to make much of a dent in the charts.

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Modern Talking - Romantic Warriors (1987)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1987 Hansa
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Modern Talking - Back For Good (1998)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 1998 Hansa
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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May 26, 2018

Devo - Freedom of Choice (1980)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: New Wave, Synth Pop
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© 1980-1987 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
With Freedom of Choice, Devo completed their transition into a full-fledged synth-pop group, producing arguably their most musically cohesive effort in the process. Synthesizers are now fully integrated into the band's sound, frequently dominating the arrangements and at least sharing equal time with the guitars. Everything is played with a cool, polished precision that mirrors the stylized uniformity of the band's visuals; the dissonance is more subdued than in the past, and the uptight rhythms are no longer jarring, instead locking the band into a rigidly even keel. Oddly, even though the music is the least human-sounding Devo had yet produced, their social observations were growing less insular and more sympathetic. Several tunes -- like the oft-covered "Girl U Want" -- have a geeky (but pragmatic) romantic angst that was new to Devo albums, although the band's view of relationships is occasionally colored by their cultural themes of competition and domination. Those preoccupations also inform their breakthrough hit single, "Whip It," but elsewhere, they're finding enough connection with the rest of the world to moderate their cynicism, at least a little bit. Songs like "Gates of Steel," "Planet Earth," and the title track reveal a frustrated idealism under their irony, one that can't quite understand why Americans don't use more of their freedom to search for happiness. Altogether, there's a little less of the debut's energy, and a little less variety as well. But the songwriting is a match for consistent quality, and moreover, the music on Freedom of Choice is the sound that defines Devo in the minds of many. In the end, that makes it the band's only other truly necessary album.

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Modern Talking - Let's Talk About Love (1985)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1985-1988 Hansa
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Modern Talking - The First Album (1985)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1985-1988 Hansa Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Modern Talking - In The Middle of Nowhere (1986)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1986-1988 Hansa
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Modern Talking - Ready For Romance (1986)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1986-1988 Hansa
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Modern Talking - In The Garden of Venus (1987)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1987 Hansa
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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May 25, 2018

Thompson Twins - Into The Gap (1984)

*European release. Features a different track listing order. 9 tacks total.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop, New Wave
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© 1984 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis
Thompson Twins' atmospheric and moody 1984 album Into the Gap was their commercial breakthrough in the United States, and remains a classic as far as '80s new wave pop is concerned. Nearly every song on this set differed from the others, with each track taking the listener on a different musical journey. The song that cemented Thompson Twins as a presence on American Top 40 radio was their earnest ballad (and biggest hit) "Hold Me Now," which years later still sounded as fresh and innocent as when it was first released. The album yielded a couple of other hits, including the feel-good, percussion- and harmonica-heavy "You Take Me Up" and the mysterious, melodramatic "Doctor! Doctor!" "The Gap," the album's final single (and a definite standout), heavily leans toward Middle Eastern influences (as does "Doctor! Doctor!") and ranks as the album's most unstoppable (and unusual) dance cut. Other tracks, including "Sister of Mercy" and "No Peace for the Wicked," rank almost as high as the singles. Thompson Twins were quiet visionaries, blending intelligent lyrics, Eastern sensibilities, and new wave pop to create a wholly unique and unforgettable listening experience and an album that ranks as one of the '80s' most unique.

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Thompson Twins - Here's To Future Days (1985)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop, New Wave
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© 1985 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On their follow-up to the commercial breakthrough Into the Gap, The Thompson Twins attempt to toughen up their sound, but the results are only partially successful. In fact, the most infectious number, "Lay Your Hands on Me," sounds like it could have been an outtake from the previous album.

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Thompson Twins - Close To The Bone (1987)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock, Pop
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© 1987 Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By the time the Thompson Twins recorded Close to the Bone, they were reduced to the duo of Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie, and they had abandoned new wave synth-pop for light funk-inflected dance-pop. Most of Close to the Bone is too sterile and predictable to be truly enjoyable, yet there are a handful of tracks that serve as a reminder that the group can turn out well-constructed and catchy pop songs when they choose.

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Thompson Twins - Big Trash (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1989 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Big Trash was a successful attempt to add a stronger rhythmic sensibility to The Thompson Twins' sound, but the album failed to produce any hit bigger than the number 28 "Sugar Daddy," although there were several other strong numbers on the record.

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