Saturday, July 4, 2015


The last album recorded by husband and wife duo, Richard and Linda Thompson, was also their best and one of the best albums of the '80s. Sadly, their marriage was also over by the time the album hit the shelves. The raw emotional state of the lyrics and vocal performances are pretty stunning, with every song, if not autobiographical, feeling at least pretty damn truthful. And the three strongest statements made are sung by Linda; Walking On A Wire, Just The Motion, and Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed. These are not songs written from a happy or secure place. She was also pregnant at the time. I don't know what the hell happened between them, but it's hard to feel too bad, since Shoot Out The Lights is one of the most solid and re-playable albums I've ever owned.
Richard came from the folk rock scene and recorded some solo albums. Linda sang on his album Henry The Human Fly and they soon married and started recording as a duo. Commercial success alluded the Thompsons, even when the critics were kind, but Shoot Out The Lights was the break through.
I wasn't even aware the guy existed until my friend played me REM's cover of Wall of Death. Holy shit, that was a good song. On Shoot, Wall of Death closes the album and comes like a sweet remembrance of a really good date, after going through all the turmoil of the previous songs.
Sad as the album is, I don't think it hurts the playability a bit. It's just that good, even a bit cathartic. I play it a lot at work, especially on stressful days when it feels like everything is going wrong.
The album opens with the galloping country rocker Don't Renege On Our Love, before shifting to low gear with sweetly fatalistic Walking On A Wire. The tempo swings back up with another mid tempo rocker, Man In Need, which is about packing your bags and hitting the road without a word ("Well I've sailed every ship in the sea, but I've traveled this world in misery) only to crash again with the even sadder Just The Motion. The up and down of the first half of the album is really compelling. Its great drama and nearly flawless. The second half has three rockers and one ballad (Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed?). It seems somewhat less personal than the first half, but still very emotional and dramatic, even has a bit of noir edge to the storytelling in Shoot Out The Lights, Back Street Slide, and Did She Jump..? The album closer, the aforementioned Wall Of Death is a sweet reprieve from the earlier downers and a song that I've added to several mix tapes.
(Bonus, check out Thompson's Rumor and Sigh from 1991. His 1952 Vincent Black Lightning might be one of my favorite folk songs ever written.)
Walking On A Wire
Man In Need
Wall Of Death

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