Richard Thompson

You? Me? Us?

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On the surface, you? me? us? appears to be a major statement from Richard Thompson. Spread out over two discs, the budget-priced album features 19 tracks, separated into an electric ("Voltage Enhanced") disc and an acoustic ("Nude") disc, which each runs around 40 minutes; "Razor Dance" and "Hide It Away" appear on both discs. Despite its appearance, you? me? us? isn't one of Thompson's major works. What sinks the album isn't the songs -- as always, Thompson has written a handful of gems -- but Mitchell Froom's production. Froom's gauzy, pseudo-experimental approach masks the songs in an impenetrable haze, which neither Thompson's guitar nor his voice can cut through. There is no texture to the album's sound -- it is mushy and colorless, which cuts away at the heart of Thompson's direct, emotional songs. If the songs on you? me? us? were given the simple, direct production they deserve, it would have been a completely different, more compelling experience. As it stands, it's a wildly uneven and unengaging listen, like the great majority of the Froom-produced Richard Thompson records.

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