THE BRITISH musicians known as the Thompson Twins aren't named Thompson, aren't twins, and aren't even very musical.
They are British, however, and that means they have an appetite for trendy pretentiousness that just can't be satisfied. On their newest album, "Close to the Bone," Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie team up with producer Rupert Hine to create lightweight pop as ponderously sluggish as anything Genesis has ever done.
What can you say about a band that makes a song called "Dancing in Your Shoes" so tepid and flaccid that no one could possibly dance to it? The album's first single, "The Long Goodbye," not only features a tourist's appreciation for Third World percussion, but also uses layers of synthesizers to underscore the dreary song's abundant self-pity.
A much better buy in every regard is Chris Isaak's followup album, which beats the odds by improving on the Californian's stunning 1985 debut album. For one thing, Isaak's road musicians have coalesced into a real band, and they play with impressive unity and rapport on the new record. James Calvin Wilsey, in particular, adds little turns of phrase on the guitar that perfectly fit the powerful moods of Isaak's songs.
In parallel fashion, Isaak himself has found a stronger sense of identity. If his debut effort sounded like a remarkable variation on Roy Orbison, thisone sounds like no one so much as Isaak himself. His big, dramatic voice is more controlled than ever, in songs like "Blue Hotel," "Cryin' " and "This Love Will Last," destined to become standards of doomed romance.
THE THOMPSON TWINS -- "Close to the Bone" (Arista AL-8449).
CHRIS ISAAK -- "Chris Isaak" (Warner Bros. 25536-1).
Both appearing Sunday at Merriweather Post Pavilion.