Thirty years ago this week saw the release of a rather odd album, but at the same time extremely important one. By 1983, Vince Clarke had kickstarted the career of Depeche Mode in style; had released an excellent debut album with Yazoo; and was only a couple of years away from world domination with Erasure.
But as it had on Speak and Spell two years earlier, disaster had already struck, as Clarke had already decided that Yazoo, the duo he had formed with Alison Moyet the previous year, had already had its day.
And so despite hitting the number 1 spot in the UK, You and Me Both is an oddly schizophrenic album. Not least because of its strangely leading title – is it about a partnership or two separate people? The day before the album was released, the duo parted ways, which was a great way of helping album sales, but I don’t think it did much to cement the idea of this as a cohesive album.
With this in mind, it’s a lot easier to understand the shape of the album, and some of the tracks on it. There’s not a single songwriting collaboration on there (this was not unusual – the duo’s only collaborative songs Situation, The Other Side of Love and State Farm were all non-album tracks). This album alternates awkwardly between Clarke and Moyet-penned tracks, and you do have to wonder slightly whether they were ever actually in the studio at the same time.
Nobody’s Diary, the duo’s fourth and final proper single, is the first track on You and Me Both, and is an absolutely brilliant track. Exemplary lyrics from Moyet; wonderfully bouncy synth parts from Clarke. The album definitely kicks off on magnificent form.
Softly Over follows, a pleasantly dark Clarke song about the end of some kind of duo, but Side A of the album is, in general, weaker than Side B. I did find, though, that listening through this time I enjoyed it a lot more than I had last time. The album does also benefit substantially from the remastering process it underwent in 2008.
Mr Blue and Good Times are pleasant tracks to close Side A, and although I’ve not heard it myself I love the idea of the repeating groove which apparently closes the first half of the album. The second side kicks off with the bonus US single Walk Away from Love, which I can’t help but feel is an odd choice, as it is a little dull. It is, however, another song about awkward breakups, of which there are several on this album.
Ode to Boy is probably the best track on Side B, echoing the dark atmosphere of Winter Kills on the first album. Which, given what the song seems to be about, is a curious stylistic choice. Unmarked and Anyone are pleasant tracks which stand out slightly for the different subject matter of their lyrics.
Happy People is always a highlight for me, as it features Vince Clarke as its vocalist, which is pretty rare to say the least. He may not be the strongest singer in the world, but it does give this song a unique mood, which is strangely fitting given the general sound of the album as a whole. And, with only a little irony, And On brings You and Me Both to a close.
The exclusion of some of the non-album tracks is odd, as Situation or State Farm would really have brightened things up a bit on this album, but I suppose that wasn’t the idea. Their career as a duo was short-lived, but it produced one excellent album; one decent one; as well as a number of great singles. And it launched two amazing careers with gusto.
Your best place to hear this album would be in the 2008 In Your Room box set, which you can still get on CD or download through Amazon UK.