The rise of British synthesizer pop has brought with it the rise of the cool vocal. As different as they are musically, such bands as New Order, A Flock of Seagulls and the Human League all share a style in which the vocals approximate the smooth expressionlessness of the synthesizers. But Yak, a synth duo that has just split up, is different: Alison "Alf" Moyet's husky, expressive singing contrasts with Vince Clarke's canny, dispassionate keyboard arrangements to create brilliant latter-day soul music. By turns sexual, disdainful and devotional, Moyet sounds like a black Sixties singer dropped onto a European street corner.
The best songs on You and Me Both "Softly Over" and "Mr. Blue" set ambiguously worded love lyrics to traditional-sounding, hymnlike melodies. In the former, when Moyet sings, "Understand me/Can't you hear me call," one gets the feeling that she's pleading not just to a boyfriend but to God himself. It's the same kind of duality that Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin achieved in the Sixties. And like the Stax and Motown rhythm sections, Yaz makes great dance music. The edgy, onrushing "State Farm" continues the tradition Clarke began with last year's "Situation"; of all the British synth players, Clarke is best at capturing the shaggy, bass-driven electropop that dominates urban dance charts. If there's less vocal experimentation here than on the group's debut, Upstairs at Eric's, there's more varietyStax-Volt, cabaret, classical harmony and counterpoint. Yaz has proved that you don't need a lot of mystique, equipment or even chops to make great pop. Just emotion, style and simplicityqualities that will be missed now that Clarke and Moyet have gone their separate ways. (RS 405)