Although Swing Out Sister’s music is unashamedly commercial pop, their impeccable indie credentials (keyboardist Andy Connell and drummer Martin Jackson were formerly of A Certain Ratio and Magazine, and singer Corinne Drewery had no professional experience at all before joining), jazz-tinged arrangements, and knack for clever hooks move them closer to the indie dance territory of St. Etienne or late period Everything But the Girl than to the cookie-cutter dance-pop of Kylie Minogue or Paula Abdul.
Connell and Jackson formed Swing Out Sister in their hometown of Manchester, England, in 1985 as a studio-based partnership set to refine the jazzy funk of A Certain Ratio and Magazine’s quirky reimaginings of old-fashioned middle-of-the-road pop. Nottingham-born singer Drewery joined the duo just in time for their first single, “Blue Mood,” in late 1985. That single didn’t do much, but the follow-up, “Breakout,” was a Top Ten hit in Great Britain and Japan in the fall of 1986. The trio belatedly completed debut album It’s Better to Travel in 1987; its U.S. release scored a pair of hits with “Breakout” and “Twilight World.” Jackson demoted himself to partial contributor on 1989’s Kaleidoscope World, which emphasized the remaining duo’s debt to lush ’60s pop by hiring the legendary Jim Webb to arrange and conduct the orchestra. Though the singles “You on My Mind” and “Waiting Game” were U.K. hits, the album didn’t attract much attention in the U.S. In Japan, however, both albums were big enough hits that a special Japan-only collection of remixes, Another Non-Stop Sister, was released in late 1989, followed by the similar Swing 3 in 1990, which also collected early B-sides and other rare tracks.