AT THEIR BEST, the Thompson Twins are irresistibly inconsequential. Hard as it may be to imagine anyone's life being changed by the likes of "Hold Me Now," it's even more difficult to imagine the pop fan who could hear that song and not wander off humming happily. Take away that unrelenting tunefulness, though, and the Thompson Twins become a hard group to justify.

"Here's to Future Days," the twins' latest, is not without melodic interest -- there are several certifiably catchy pop songs here -- but it lacks the group's earlier effervescence.

It's almost as if the Thompsons lost faith in their instincts and turned to formula. Certainly that seems to be the case with "King for a Day," a lame rewrite of Marvin Gaye's "If This World Were Mine"; and the anti- heroin "Don't Mess With Doctor Dream" is a soporific in its own right.

Only "Lay Your Hands on Me" and "Love Is the Law," both of which benefit from co- producer Nile Rodgers' rhythmic insight, show any vestige of the original sparkle.

It may be that the Thompson Twins' insistence on mindless lyrics has reduced their pop to pap. That's one problem Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark will never face.

Their latest album, "Crush," addresses topics ranging from the difficulties of dealing with feminism to the massacre of anti- Klan protesters in Greensboro. Granted, that's hardly the stuff of which chartbusters are made, but OMD's compromise between high-mindedness and pop practicality makes "Crush" an ideal antidote to the Thompson Twins' bouncy banality.

THE THOMPSON TWINS -- "Here's to Future Days" (Arista A18-8276).

ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVERS IN THE DARK -- "Crush" (A&M SP 5077); both appearing Friday night at the Patriot Center, George Mason University.