Tom Bailey, “Science Fiction” (Mikrokosmos/BFD)
At its peak, Thompson Twins created some great 1980s synth pop, songs with refined melodies, thoughtful lyrics and a wide range of keyboard sounds, enlivened by crystalline percussion landscaping overlapping rhythms.
Tom Bailey uses those same elements of the band’s identikit on “Science Fiction,” a sprightly musical collection with a glossy finish where feelings of unease and being adrift lurk beneath.
The opening title track narrates an obsession with a literary genre as a means of escapism and the frustration of those feeling left out.
“What Kind of World,” dressed up in Latin beats, stays in the thematic neighborhood — envisioning life on Mars where people inevitably take their problems along and wonder why they made the flight. Inspired by David Bowie and Elon Musk, it notes that for all of humanity’s strange fascination with technology, the real challenge is to save our souls.
“Feels Like Love to Me” is a strolling ballad in A-ha mode, “Ship of Fools” bolsters the sentiments of lacking direction and “Bring Back Yesterday” repeats Paul McCartney’s yearning for times which won’t return no matter what.
“Come So Far,” first released in 2016 as a charity track benefiting Doctors Without Borders, closes the album with an evocative melody clearly “inspired” by 1960s megahit “Love Is Blue.” It recounts the plight of a refugee who’s already made a long journey which is bound to continue even if the final destination is unknown.
Bailey was out of the public eye for a while, though his dub music released as International Observer is worth seeking out, and “Science Fiction” returns him to the pop stage.
It’s an enjoyable album full of catchy melodies and Bailey’s vocals are as expressive as ever, but some more organic sounds would have been welcomed to counter the limitations of a laptop as recording studio.