Stephen Duffy

They Called Him Tin Tin

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As a recap of Stephen Duffy's pre-Lilac Time career, They Called Him Tin Tin performs a valuable service. The two mid-'80s Duffy albums that most of these 16 tracks are drawn from -- The Ups and Downs and Because We Love You -- have become hard to find, and both were filled with smart, exquisitely crafted pop that overall deserved a much better fate in the charts and at the hands of critics. The biggest successes are here, of course: a 1983 remix of the bubblegum dance smash "Kiss Me" is included, as well as the better-known 1985 version, and lesser hits like "Icing on the Cake" and "Unkiss That Kiss" make deserved appearances. But good as Duffy's singles were, album tracks like the dramatic, soulful "When You Go to Bed" and the jazzily strummed character study "Wednesday Jones" showed he had roots that reached beyond current chart fare -- a side of his writing that would get more attention in the folky Lilac Time. They Called Him Tin Tin isn't a perfect collection -- while the funky B-side "Love Is Driving Me Insane" was an inspired choice, three tracks from Duffy's electronic side project, Dr. Calculus, seem a bit much, especially in light of the many Duffy leftovers still unavailable on CD (like the early hit "Hold It" or the "Kiss Me" flip side "In This Twilight," to name just a couple). Those who like what they hear on this compilation will probably find it worthwhile to track down the two original albums anyway, but half a loaf this good is certainly better than none.

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