Queer (Thompson Twins album)

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Queer
Studio album by Thompson Twins
Released 24 September 1991
Recorded The Sugar Shack, London[1]
Genre Alternative, Post-punk
Length 47:48[2]
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie, Keith Fernley
Thompson Twins chronology
Big Trash
(1989)
Queer
(1991)
Thompson Twins - Greatest Hits
(1996)

Queer is the eighth and final studio album by the British pop group Thompson Twins.

Queer was the second album for the Warner Bros. label, following the 1989 album Big Trash. Although the previous album was not a major commercial success, it did spawn the Top 30 hit "Sugar Daddy" in the US. Before the release of Queer, it appeared as if the band was on the verge of commercial rebirth. Tom Bailey and engineer Keith Fernley had been experimenting with making dance music under the moniker "Feedback Max." As such, the group slipped several white-label 12-inch singles to London disc jockeys, the most successful of which was a track called "Come Inside". The rave-style record became massively popular, and charted high on the playlists of influential DJs. Most of the Feedback Max records, including "Come Inside", were actually remixes of tracks that had been intended for the next Thompson Twins album. When "Come Inside" was issued as an official Thompson Twins release, the record was immediately ignored, as it stalled at number 56 on the UK Top 75 chart. Consequently, the British release of Queer was cancelled.

The album was released in the United States and Germany in September 1991. Warner Bros. tried a similar marketing approach in the US: Pre-release radio singles were shipped to station programmers in a paper zip-apart sleeve that said simply "Come Inside." A question mark appeared in place of the artist's name. The official single was released, but it was only successful on the Billboard dance charts. It was also popular within gay clubs. This modest success prompted Warner Bros. to issue a second single, "Groove On", despite the fact that remixes already existed for another album track, "Flower Girl". The former failed to make an impact. However, in the UK, "The Saint" was released as the second single from the album; it reached number 53.

In 1992, the Thompson Twins appeared on the soundtrack of the Ralph Bakshi film Cool World with a mostly-instrumental piece titled "Play With Me"; it was actually a remix of the song "Strange Jane" from Queer. Warner Bros. then released the track as an official Thompson Twins single, now called "Play With Me (Jane)", but the Cool World version of the song wasn't released as a single, even on the maxi-single format. Although "Play With Me (Jane)" did not make the UK Top 75, as with the other UK releases, it was a modest hit on the UK Dance Chart, reaching number 15.

Following the release of Queer, the band dropped the name Thompson Twins altogether and moved deeper into electronica with a new group called Babble, released by Warner Bros.' sister label Reprise. The group released two subsequent albums: The Stone and Ether.

Background[edit]

Written by the Twins, produced by the Twins, performed by the Twins, recorded by the Twins at the Twins' own Sugar Shack Studio in London during a seven month period beginning last summer.[3] The name of the album, and the title track, is based on the Famous Edith Sitwell ode "Waltz," in which the reclusive British poet discusses the twists and turns of her family tree and how strange her relatives were. In The Advocate magazine of October 1991, an article based on the duo and the new album was published with the title "No fear of being queer".[4] Bailey explained the idea behind the album title, after he came up with it to prove a point. He stated "Are the Thompson Twins passionate and sexual? Sort of. Are we queer? Yes. Alannah and I are taking the word back. It's not the same point Boy George was proving with album Absolute Queer; but, it's close. Its amazing how many buttons this title has pushed, we were kind of hoping that would happen. Queer is such a powerful word. And yet it still shocks me how people get so uptight over it. I say to them, "What's getting you so upset? Realise it, and you could relax your whole life. Check out the big picture." There's an obsession with what is normal and what isn't. Sitwell and our song say, 'The hell with what you think is right.' Queer is not a gay word. It's a political word, a word people use to call someone who isn't normal. I think it's great that so many people are trying to claim the word, except that no one exactly owns it. Some gay people have said, "How can you, a straight man, call your album that?" But hey, I am trying to say that it's a word about freedom. It should not be a pejorative." Bailey also related the use of the word to how feminists used the word "Witch" 15 years ago; "Feminists proudly called each other hags and witches to show everyone that it's OK to be hated because you're a woman - the same way people use the word queer today. It's OK to be hated if you're gay. Celebrate the fact that you're outside a pathetically ugly definition of what's normal. Reclaim the word - take it back." It was also noted that Currie had taken such an interest in Sitwill's poetry that she planned to produce a whole album based on the late writer's work.[5]

The album attempted to be a departure from what Bailey described as "safe pop music where all we ever wrote about was how much you turn me on, baby, baby." Aside from the title, the duo reclaimed positive sexuality through the song and leading single "Come Inside". Bailey described the song's meaning; "It's about a breakthrough between two people, the act of penetration. But the song is inspired by William Blake's poem "The Doors of Deception," which, as Blake wrote are hard to open wide. It's amazing how people are not willing to open their minds, but are more than ready to open their legs." Bailey also noted that the song's music video included images of doors slamming on "rude people". The album's title caused some objection from the record label. Bailey admitted "The record company and others didn't think it was too terrific to call a pop album "Queer"." He added that he found the controversy over his new-found queer sensibility "quite refreshing." He revealed "For years people asked if I was gay. I don't know why, but they did. Now they all seem to be satisified."[5]

Within the official Warner Bros. press kit release for the album, Queer was described as "A dazzling exercise in the fine art of the unexpected, the eleven cuts that comprise the Twins latest outing offer no signposts, pigeon holes or traditional comforts to guide you through its maze of whims, obsessions and prismatic fantasies. Mystifying, mercurial, purely magical, "Queer" is the reward that awaits those for whom mere explanation is never quite enough. "Queer" is the album the Twins fans have, all this time, been waiting for... whether they knew it or not. After all, contenting themselves with a string of albums and hit singles that mark one of the, well, queerist, careers in music, Twins disciples had no way of knowing that the best was yet to come. Yet, here it is, an album that mixes with unsettling ease, psychedelic conjuring, cosmic consciousness, trashy pop, exuberant eclecticism and a veritable cornucopia of influences, musical and otherwise. Where else, for example, could you find a breathtaking juxtaposition of Indian street sounds (recorded live on location during the Twins recent visit to the teeming subcontinent), the aromatic flourishes of vintage English poetry (as heard on the title track, with lyrics borrowed from Dame Edith Sitwell's ode, "Waltz," dance-enhancing rhythms (which have already propelled the album's single, "Come Inside" to the top of the U.K. club charts) and a potpourri of spicy filigree ranging from Blakian rapture to French dada to the crushed velvet reveries of Kings Road flower children? Yet while metaphors, smiles and windy evocations may serve to pique perceptive ears, nothing can quite prepare the lucky listener for Queer. Why try to define what can only be experienced?"[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[2]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992 Edition) 2.5/5 stars[6]

Allmusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine called Queer "an ambitious effort, but it isn't entirely successful", noting that "you can hear the group work to re-establish themselves as artists."[2] Writing for Rovi, Erlewine noted that Queer "was ignored in both the U.S. and the U.K."[7]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Come Inside" - 3:58
  2. "Flower Girl" - 4:16
  3. "My Funky Valentine" - 3:22
  4. "Queer" - 3:19
  5. "Groove On" - 3:54
  6. "Strange Jane" - 4:00
  7. "Shake It Down" - 3:31
  8. "Wind It Up" - 4:17
  9. "Flesh And Blood" - 3:47
  10. "The Invisible Man" - 2:33
  11. "The Saint" - 4:33
  12. "Come Inside (Feedback Max Remix)" - 6:27

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Thompson Twins - Queer (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  2. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Queer - Thompson Twins". Allmusic. Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  3. ^ a b "Unofficial Thompson Twins Home Page". Web.archive.org. 2000-06-11. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  4. ^ "Unofficial Thompson Twins Home Page - ARTICLES Section". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  5. ^ a b "Unofficial Thompson Twins Home Page". Web.archive.org. 2000-06-06. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  6. ^ "The Rolling stone album guide: completely new reviews : every essential ... - Anthony DeCurtis, James Henke, Holly George-Warren - Google Books". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Thompson Twins". Pandora Internet Radio. Pandora Media. Retrieved 2010-10-18.