About a month ago, God Is In The TV’s Andy Page interviewed Nick Heyward. The former Haircut 100 frontman revealed that only recently has he started to realise – through watching old Top Of The Pops re-runs – how much brilliant stuff was being made by so many other artists at the time he was having hits himself. Listening to Science Fiction, Tom Bailey‘s first ‘pop’ album since Babble‘s 1996 release Ether, you start to get a whiff of the notion that the Thompson Twins main man is in full congruence with Heyward.
Crucially, while borrowing ideas from the eighties risks the wrath of a generation of music writers who (wrongly in my view) dismiss that decade as an empty void, with little to no redeeming features, Bailey himself is smart enough to avoid all that by not only cherry picking the best of that era’s most commercial successes, but also by using his extensive music knowledge to juxtapose older – and no doubt newer – influences with the cheerful ghosts of the past.
You only need to listen to single ‘What Kind Of World‘ to get some idea of what I’m talking about. Beginning with a nod towards War‘s ‘Low Rider‘, the rest of this cracking tune lies somewhere between Santana and Duran Duran. It’s pretty clear that the hugely successful Birmingham based New Romantics have made some kind of impact on Bailey of late, perhaps having revisited and re-evaluated their work in the lead up to writing and recording Science Fiction. Hell, ‘Shooting Star‘ even begins with a vocal melody not too far removed from ‘A View To A Kill‘. As a consequence, the record is an unbridled joy.
It would be churlish of me to suggest that this doesn’t have the classic Thompson Twins stamp all over it, however. It does, in spades, more so than anything Bailey has put his name to since 1985’s Here’s To Future Days, but still holds some fantastic surprises, such as the 6/8 time signature of the splendid ‘Ship Of Fools‘ (NOT the Erasure song), and, perhaps best of all, the Bowie like ‘Work All Day‘, whose opening throes make me think of the “Put your hands in the air like you don’t care” segment in Cameo‘s ‘Word Up.’
Bailey’s band these days is an entirely female one, and they really seem to have reinvigorated his songwriting prowess, with all ten songs memorable enough to sing along to in the car with the minimum of effort. Science Fiction‘s closing number, ‘Come So Far‘, is halfway between Sting‘s ‘Fields Of Gold‘ and Howard Jones‘s ‘Hide And Seek‘, showcasing Tom’s humanitarian nature by focusing on the plight of refugees, yearning to make this a better world for them and us. In fact, there IS no ‘them and us’ in Tom’s world, and, quite frankly, that is truly a world we should all endeavour to be a part of. An enchanting album, in places quite magical. Welcome, Mr. Bailey, it’s good to have you back.
Science Fiction will be released on July 13th through Red River Entertainment.