We gave it an A-
Richard Thompson has long had a split personality: doom-laden guitar hero one moment, pensive folkie the next. On the double disc You?Me?Us?, he literally gives in to that division, devoting one CD to electric stompers and the other to acoustic ballads. The format only magnifies the intensity of each of Thompson’s artistic sides. The plugged-in batch mines familiar Thompson turf (Middle Eastern flourishes rub against Olde Country accents), but they’re darker and more spiteful than usual, the guitar solos as jagged as glass shards. Even the goofy ”Business on You,” wherein Thompson uses Elvis’ sweat as a love potion, comes off tense.
The acoustic songs sound timeless, like mournful blues written in ancient Celtic villages. The lyrics, however, resonate like contemporary short stories. In ”Cold Kisses,” the narrator torments himself by peeking at photos of his lover’s exes. The soldier in the spooky ”Woods of Darney” retrieves a snapshot of a dead corporal’s girl, then seeks her out and sleeps with her; upon his return to battle, he’s carrying the photo. Throughout You?Me?Us? Thompson himself fights the good fight — against silly love songs, and for rants by tormented obsessives everywhere.