If you're going to own at least one Squeeze album, this has to be the one.
Chris Jones 2008-03-07
In the early 80s, the UK's premier chroniclers of the average person's romantic adventures - along with Madness - were Squeeze. Like the nutty boys, Squeeze were an intrinsically London act. And, as the universal success of the collection, Singles 45s And Under, proved, as a singles band they were peerless. However, the albums could be just as thrilling.
Following two patchier albums filled with cheery East End tales, Argy Bargy (1980), emerged as their crowning achievement. Now reissued along with some of the band's later efforts, it remains a masterpiece of kitchen sink pop, possibly second only to the follow up, East Side Story. Chris Difford, and Glenn Tilbrook, the band's Lennon and McCartney had already proven themselves adept at gritty, witty tableaus like Up The Junction or Slap And Tickle. Added to this was their technical sheen. There's Tilbrook's underrated ability to pull tasty (and apt) solos out of the hat like a younger George Harrison - the solo at 1.46 on Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) is one of the best - and also one of the best drummers in the business in Gilson Lavis. All this briefly made Squeeze world-beaters.
Yet it was Tilbrook's angelic tones, undercut by Difford's bass growl that really defined the band's sound. It's used in marvellous ways here on If I Didn't Love You, a song which encaspulates the double-edged pleasures of sexual advances ("if I didn't love you I'd hate you"). The pair's lyrics were by now able to sum up a universe in a couplet. It was their cheeky tendency to use phrases that eschewed poetry but remained English through and through that made them stand out from the crowd. Time and again the subjects amaze with, if not their mundanity, then their refusal to depict anything beyond their own back yards. Separate Beds and Vicky Verky chronicle the fumbling first steps of young love with petty crime and parental control as bit players; Misadventure is the story of a failed dope smuggling operation; There At The Top is a sideways look at the life of a career woman. Meanwhile I Think I'm Go Go details the dislocation of touring abroad (''This world's got smaller, I'm shaking lots of hands. Saying lots of things that no one understands...'').
There is a litttle inconsistency: Jools Hollands' Wrong Side Of The Moon is throwaway while the synth-inflected Here Comes That Feeling lacks the musical clout to hold its own in such rarified company. Everything else on offer is, however, marvellous. Now boosted by a splendid extra disc with a live performance from the period, if you're going to own at least one Squeeze album, this has to be the one.