Category: Squeeze

Squeeze – Sweets From a Stranger

ARTIST: Squeeze 

TITLE: Sweets From a Stranger

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION:  #32 US, #20 UK

SINGLES: Black Coffee in Bed (#103 US, #26 Mainstream, #51 UK), When the Hangover Strikes, I’ve Returned

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In Quintessence

LINEUP: Glenn Tillbrook, Chris Difford, John Bentley, Don Snow, Gilson Lavis

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Paul Carrack leaves, Difford and Tillbrook don’t have the songs, and while they have a video on heavy rotation, no one is really happy about the record, much less the band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Almost every track on Sweets From a Stranger seems like it’s been done before. Maybe not by Squeeze, but there isn’t a lot of originality here. You have new wave sounding tracks, arty rock songs that sound a little Broadway-esque, and classic guitar-oriented pop songs. Only “Black Coffee in Bed” rises above the déjà vu feeling of the songs.

This even extends to lyrics, where Chris Difford mines the familiar themes of drinking and cheating, but without the originality and verve before. Glenn Tillbrook tries hard but gets too fancy by half on some tracks, and on others the tunes just seem a bit flat. The production didn’t help either – it was a bit busy in places and didn’t let the songs breathe.

“Black Coffee in Bed” was a classic, and MTV played the video like crazy in 1982 (even with Gilson Lavis dropping a drumstick). It’s not a bad album, but quite disappointing when measured by the preceding three Squeeze records. After this, they released a ‘final’ single (the brilliant “Annie Get Your Gun”) and split up for a bit. When they came back, their sound had morphed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Some songs sounded like musical theatre tracks, and yes, Difford and Tillbrook did mount a short-lived musical in London in 1983.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Outtakes, demos, and “Annie Get Your Gun (#40 Mainstream, #43 UK)

 GRADE: B- A disappointment to say the least.

Squeeze – East Side Story

ARTIST: Squeeze 

TITLE: East Side Story

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION:  #44 US, #19 UK

SINGLES: Is That Love (#35 UK), Tempted (#49 US, #8 Mainstream Rock, #41 UK), Labelled With Love (#4 UK), Messed Around

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In Quintessence

LINEUP: Glenn Tillbrook, Chris Difford, John Bentley, Paul Carrack, Gilson Lavis

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Squeeze recruits Paul Carrack to replace Jools Holland and comes out with a fantastic chameleon of an album, full of witticisms, hooks, and changing motifs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Going into 1981, Squeeze was on a roll in crafting new-wavish pop tunes, charting in the UK and getting a cult following in the US. Though keyboardist and funnyman Jools Holland left to go solo, the band recruited ormer Ace leader Paul Carrack and didn’t miss a beat.

For this album, Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook came up with a group of songs that all had different motifs and structures, with most of lyrics focusing on love, cheating, drinking, and other combinations thereof. It shouldn’t have worked, really, with all of the disparate styles on one record. But it does work – it’s brilliant. The production (by Elvis Costello with engineer Roger Bechirian) is probably the clearest and brightest Squeeze had ever sounded.

Only a couple of tracks have the classic Squeeze sound. Some are more rooted in R&B (“Tempted” of course), and then there’s songs that are country, art and chamber pop, vocal pop, rockabilly, and whatever you call “Heaven” (a drinking song with bouzoukis?). Difford is on top of his game with his lyrics, and Tillbrook somehow weaves them all into melodies and songs that aren’t just run of the mill pop or new wave. It’s fabulous.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yes, you saw that right. “Tempted” didn’t hit the Top 40, and in the UK was the lowest charting released single. (“Messed Around” was a US single only – and that was an odd choice, really).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple with B-sides and outtakes. 

GRADE: A+ Argybargy and East Side Story are a brilliant one-two of early 80s UK music.

Squeeze – Argybargy

ARTIST: Squeeze           220px-argybargy

TITLE:  Argybargy

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #71 US, #32 UK

SINGLES: Another Nail in My Heart (#17 UK), If I Didn’t Love You, Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) (#44), Farfisa Beat

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Squeeze fans can sing along to the whole thing.

LINEUP: Chris Difford, Glenn Tillbrook, Jools Holland, Gilson Lavis, John Bentley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Masterful, tuneful, playful album that put Squeeze at the top of the New Wave movement in the UK and garnered them notice in the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Squeeze followed up their breakout album in the UK with one of the best albums of the era. Their songwriting and sound moved forward, throwing in a lot of their influences and becoming quite eclectic while maintain a signature sound.

The patented octave harmonies of Difford and Tillbrook are prevalent during many of the choruses of the songs, lending familiarity, but they change it up with allowing Difford’s growl to take the lead during some pieces of those choruses and bridges. The combo of Jools Holland’s keyboards, Tillbrook’s guitar, and newcomer John Bentley’s bass add a solid touch that is versatile enough to span several idioms.

The stars of the show are the songs. All 11 tracks are strong, even the ‘novelty’ types such as “Farfisa Beat” and Holland’s showcase “Wrong Side of the Moon”.  They’re tuneful, wry, and challenging, and each one has a distinct style while keeping the sound of Squeeze. That’s a tough trick to pull off, and Squeeze does it here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Holland left soon after the album release to start his solo and television career.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with b-sides, demos, and a live concert.

GRADE: A+:  From tracks 1-11, even on the ‘filler’ as it were, this is a testament to great songwriting and tuneful pop arrangements and melodies.

Squeeze – Cool for Cats

ARTIST: Squeeze                         220px-coolforcats

TITLE:  Cool for Cats

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #45 UK

SINGLES: Goodbye Girl (#63 UK), Cool for Cats (#2 UK), Up the Junction (#2 UK), Slap and Tickle (#24 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Slightly Drunk

LINEUP: Glenn Tillbrook, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, Gilson Lavis, Harry Kakoulli

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Second Squeeze album gets the lads on track, and provides them with some excellent singles and decent album cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Listening to Cool for Cats after hearing their first album, you get the sense that this was the album they had in them all along.

Some great story songs from the Difford and Tillbrook team, with Tillbrook’s somewhat angelic voice helped along by Jools Holland’s fun keyboard accents. The production is still a little ragged (I really don’t like the drums sound, but it’s a very dead 70’s tom sound, so maybe it’s just me) but most of the songs shine through.

There are a couple of cuts that probably could have been left off / improved, but deep cuts like “Slightly Drunk”, “It’s So Dirty”, “The Knack”, and “Hop, Skip & Jump” were excellent, and also pointed the way for the next Squeeze album.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This quickly became a Gold Record in the UK.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of b-sides / outtakes.

GRADE: A-: Mostly a fun record, and a definite Squeeze album with story songs and wry wordplay.

Squeeze – UK Squeeze

UK SqueezeARTIST: Squeeze
TITLE: UK Squeeze (Squeeze in the UK)
YEAR RELEASED: 1978
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Take Me I’m Yours (#19 UK), Bang Bang (#49 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None, unless you’re a real Squeeze junkie
LINEUP: Glenn Tillbrook, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, Gilson Lavis, Harry Kakoulli.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut new-wave / power pop record from the premier UK power pop practitioners.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You gotta start somewhere, right? Unlike many of their brethren, who put together excellent first albums, this was rather a disappointment. From reports, it wasn’t their fault. Their producer, John Cale, had them scrap their current songs and write new ones and you can tell that they’re a bit tentative and unsure about themselves and their direction. Frankly, about three or four cuts could have been left off in favor of the contents of their debut EP (Packet of Three), and a forgotten B-side called “Disco Kid”.

To wit: There’s an instrumental on here. Mind you, Squeeze are great musicians, but you don’t really buy a Squeeze album to hear an instrumental.

NOTES & MINUTAE: Packet of Three isn’t available for streaming, at least as I saw it. You can find the individual cuts on You Tube, and the lead cut “Cat on a Wall” (which definitely should have been on this record) is on a compilation called Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here’s the Bollocks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There was a CD with bonus tracks, but on Google Play it’s just the conventional album.

GRADE: C+: Saved by the singles and a few typical Squeeze cuts. Use your skip feature wisely. This would be the last of the ‘classic’ Squeeze albums to buy.