Breaking up never sounded so beautiful

Richard Thompson and Linda Peters met and married in the wake of Thompson’s departure from the UK’s best folk band, Fairport Convention, and became one of the best-loved folk-rock duos of the 1970s. They sang about loneliness, faith, and sex—and then, as the ’70s shaded into the ’80s, about the dissolution of their relationship. Their 1982 breakup album, Shoot Out the Lights, which is now available as a deluxe reissue from Rhino Handmade, is a searing, sputtering masterpiece.

“Don’t Renege on Our Love” and the Zeppelin-esque “Back Street Slide” are remarkably stark, totally unforgiving songs; they’re aimed straight at the listener’s solar plexus. Three thematically linked tracks—“Walking on a Wire,” “Did She Jump or Was She Pushed,” and “Wall of Death”—are more mysterious, and more heartbreaking. A great many rumors surrounded the album’s genesis: Some said the Thompsons had stopped speaking by the time they got around to recording it and were communicating only through song. Others, that Linda was too shattered to sing complete lines and had to record her parts syllable by syllable. You can certainly hear her gasping for air, and on the title track Richard plays the creepiest, twitchiest guitar solo we’ve ever heard.

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