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End of Days
on 23 August 2010
The third album in the Thompson Twins "big trilogy" is often dismissed as the least interesting of their hit albums. In most respects, this is true, but that's not to say this is a bad album by any means. Here's To Future Days was released in 1985, as the band's popularity was waning, but considering how over-exposed the band were during their peak in 1984, this was bound to happen. There is no easy solution for such a problem - release new material too early and the public will be sick of you, release it too late and they will have forgotten you. This album arrived 18 months after their previous one, which seems like a reasonable gap, though the timing was probably decided less by choice and more by unfortunate circumstances.
The material on this album continues the dance-pop style from the Twins' previous two albums, though some of it isn't quite as stylised and often sounds a little more like generic mid-80s pop/rock (the single "King For A Day" is evidence of this, though it's not a bad tune). The album version of their late 1984 hit, "Lay Your Hands On Me", was given a gospel-style makeover by the Twins' new producer, Nile Rodgers, but the newer version is vastly inferior to the Alex Sadkin-produced original. Sadkin's version had much more charm with its flowing, uplifting chorus and elegant production, whereas Rodgers' version is just far too clipped and jagged-sounding with annoying rock guitars thrown in, almost murdering the song. The second single, "Don't Mess With Doctor Dream", has its guitars and synths working well together. With its sampled "groovy gorilla" intro and Chic-style guitar work during the verses, it is an infectious dance-pop track that rises above its blunt "Just Say No" anti-drug message (a message lost on Joe Leeway, if reports from the time were accurate). The fourth single from this album, an ill-advised cover of The Beatles' "Revolution", is the worst thing on the album and God only knows what possessed the Twins to record it (one can only assume it was a product of Tom Bailey's much publicised nervous breakdown at the time). The fact it ended their three-year run of UK Top 40 hits says it all, and there were other tracks on the album that would have made far better singles.
The title track, "Future Days", is one of them, and has a strong choir-powered chorus (the same choir featured on the gospel version of "Lay Your Hands...", but here their vocals are used to spectacular effect). A couple of the tracks on the album have a Far East flavour to them, no doubt designed to appeal to the band's growing fanbase in the lucrative Japanese market. One of these, "Breakaway", has a good solid chorus and would also have made a worthy single. The other, "Tokyo", is more blatant though, and seems to be striving to ingratiate the band to a wider Japanese audience rather than aiming for any kind of artistic integrity. It isn't brilliant, but it isn't bad either. "The Emperor's Clothes" is a moody ballad more reminscent of the synthetic style of the band's two previous albums (partly evoking the atmosphere of "Kamikaze" from 1983's Quick Step & Side Kick album, but not quite as memorable), whereas "Love Is The Law" is simple, catchy pure pop fun. "You Killed The Clown" is perhaps the weakest track on the album (not counting the cover of "Revolution"), and might have been better with some reworking to make it smoother and more ethereal. As it stands, it's just another slightly clumsy synth-pop ballad and of little interest.
As with the previous two Thompson Twins reissues from Edsel Records, the extras on this set are impressive, with a total of 29 tracks spread over two discs. Though there are no less than six different versions of "Lay Your Hands On Me", it would have been nice to have included the original UK 7" single mix which is by far the best version. The same goes for "Don't Mess With Doctor Dream", of which there are also several versions included here, except the original 7" single mix. The lost 1985 single "Roll Over" is also included here (three versions of it, in fact), but it isn't a particularly brilliant song and it's probably a blessing that it was withdrawn as a single at the last minute. Still, it's nice to actually have it.
Whilst the photos of various single covers and merchandise in the fold-out booklet add a welcome touch of nostalgia, the liner notes have once again been lazily culled from Wikipedia and are sloppy and inaccurate (any kind of journalist or industry professional who uses Wikipedia as a source should be shot). Though Bailey, Currie and Leeway have made it clear that the Thompson Twins are behind them now, some input from them would not have gone amiss here. After all, its not every band who gets the deluxe 2-disc treatment for albums that are a quarter of a century old (and long overdue it was too). Despite not reaching the heights of Quick Step or Into The Gap, Here's To Future Days is a fairly good album overall. Unfortunately, it heralded the end of the Thompson Twins as a trio and also as a commercially viable pop act. For three years and three albums, they burned brightly, but then the light went out (some might say "burned out", judging by the cost to Bailey's health). Not that they were necessarily washed-up by that point, as the duo of Bailey and Currie would go on to create the brilliant single "Come Inside" in the early 90s which stands tall with the best of their 80s material. Perhaps they just needed to stop and change direction a bit earlier. 7 out of 10.