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The Best of Squeeze - up to 1990
Greatest Hits - Squeeze
Member Name: rosebud2001
Greatest Hits - Squeeze
Date: 15/12/08, updated on 14/06/09 (362 review reads)
Advantages: All the hits, great value
Disadvantages: Doesn't include the band's highly regarded 1990s work
Squeeze were formed in London in 1974 and their core original members were Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, Gilson Lavis and John Bentley. Their line-up changed over the years with Holland leaving in 1980 and returning for two albums in the mid 1980s when the band reformed.
The band's most successful period commercially was 1979 when they scored two number two singles with "Cool For Cats" and "Up the Junction" and while both songs still receive airplay today, neither are the best songs they ever wrote, although both contain elements within.
What drew me to Squeeze back in the late 1970s was their lyrics. Chris Difford is, as far as I am concerned, one of the greatest lyricists of his generation and Glenn Tilbrook is able to interpret Difford's words beautifully.
The album begins with the bands first hit single from 1978, "Take Me I'm Yours". At the time they were marketed as a post-punk, powerpop set-up, which was misleading given the fact they were musically very gifted.
The song is particularly evocative of traveling "the seven seas" as Chris and Glenn sing on this song with shared vocals, and isn't really indicative of what the future held for them.
The follow up to "Take Me I'm Yours" was "Bang Bang", a piece of power pop which wasn't particularly memorable and is only remembered by fans nowadays.
Later on in 1978 however the band released "Goodbye Girl" which was to be the first single from their second album, and this is a firm favourite, despite only reaching number 63 in the charts.
The song perfectly describes a one night stand and its the first single where Tilbrook's vocals shine through. The longing in his voice is perfect as he sings...
"Sunlight on the lino
Woke me with a shake
I looked around to find her but she had gone
This is the song that showed the band's true potential as songwriters and performers.
Released early in 1979, "Cool For Cats" was the title track of Squeeze's second album and was the band's first huge hit, reaching number 2 in the charts.
Unusually, Difford sings the entire lead on this song and its done in his distinctive baritone voice, replete with his Deptford accent. The words to this song are funny and take me back to being a teenager and desperately wanting to fit in. Incredibly some people thought some of the lyrics were sexist and offensive at the time - for me they are pure poetry.
This is the first single which gives Jools Holland the chance to show off just what a fantastic pianist he is, with the song ending with a great solo from him. This single also marks a period where the band really play on their London origins with use of London vocabulary and slang.
"Up the Junction", another number 2 hit for the band in 1979, tells the story of young love gone wrong due to a young man's inability to cope with responsibility.
Difford filches the title from a 1960s novel and film but the only reference to Junction is the fact the protagonist singer falls for a girl from Clapham, famous for its Junction station. The song tells about a couple who have to deal with an unplanned pregnancy and the man's loss of everything, proclaiming "the devil came and took me from bar to street to bookie", finishing by stressing how bad his situation is by saying "I'm really up the junction" - the only time the title features in this song which doesn't have a chorus.
The follow up to Up the Junction was the much less successful "Slap and Tickle" a tale of young lust without the pregnancy. Many of Difford's lyrics from this period feature a snapshot of the young male psyche and one suspects that apart from his music, his main preoccupations at the time were the pub and women.
In 1980 the band released their third album, entitled "Argybargy" and the first single was "Another Nail in My Heart". This album was more mature than their previous offerings but this is another tale of drinking too much and messing up and then drinking too much to forget. This song reached number 17 in the charts back in 1981 and is still a song I remember with great fondness but with hindsight I can see it's a little bit "more of the same" from Difford lyrically.
The band followed up with "Pulling Mussels (From a Shell)" which saw them sing of holiday love at British seaside resorts, done in a typically London manner. The song is gloriously "London", like so much of their previous work, but is the last song featured on this album to celebrate London life, with the London slang leaving their work with this album.
In 1981 Jools Holland left the band, to be replaced by Paul Carrack, who had formerly had a hit with the classic Ace track "How Long". He featured on the fourth album from the band "East Side Story", which is one of their strongest albums.
The first single from this album was "Is That Love", a fast and furious pop song about relationships and how sometimes its hard to misinterpret gestures. I often think this would have worked better at a slower pace but it is a benchmark in displaying how Difford was finally maturing as a lyricist.
The follow up was "Tempted", released in the summer of 1981 and sadly not the huge hit it should have been. The song was part produced by Elvis Costello, who also sings a line on the song.
The main lead on this song was done by Paul Carrack, although Glenn Tilbrook does sing one verse himself. The story this time is of being "tempted by the fruit of another" and this has become one of Squeeze's most enduring songs - the perfect combination of great lyrics, great singing and great musicianship.
The follow up to this classic track was "Labelled with Love" which is typically Squeeze insofar as it tells the bittersweet story of a war bride living in penury and squalor in America, whilst yearning for her youth in England, through a haze of booze. Tilbrook's voice brings the story alive and the sound gives an affectionate nod to Nashville.
In 1982 the band released "Sweets from a Stranger", a dark effort which is actually one of my favourite Squeeze albums. The lead single from this album was "Black Coffee in Bed" - which is a concert mainstay and a fan favourite to this day. Like "Tempted" this song wasn't a huge hit but had proved to have lasting appeal and still receives airplay today. Hindsight is a marvelous thing and this song and others on this album show Difford's descent into alcoholism starting to emerge.
Squeeze decided to split up in 1982 and their last offering was the single only release "Annie Get Your Gun", which was a minor hit and ensured the band went out with a whimper rather than a bang. The song is a homage to their early powerpop incarnation and doesn't have one of Difford's better lyrics.
After a failed partnership in 1984 as "Difford & Tilbrook", Squeeze reformed in 1985 and came back with a masterpiece of an album in "Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti". Three singles from that album feature on "Greatest Hits", all of which rank amongst their best work in my opinion.
Holland was back in the fold and his distinctive style is used to great effect on "Last Time Forever", a story of lost love and broken dreams, which is also one of Tilbrook's best vocal performances. "King George Street" is a wonderful song about daddy being a drinker and how mum and the kids cope with this. "No Place Like Home" follows on from this - sung about an unhealthy relationship made so through drink but the knowledge that its better to be together and sober. This is one of my very favourite Squeeze songs - a true anthem which reflects working class life truthfully.
In 1987 the band had another hit with "Hourglass", a catchy pop song helped along by an Adrian Edmondson produced video which was highly influenced by surrealist art. This was the first single released from the album "Babylon and On" and the song reached number 16 in the charts and was their last significant hit.
They followed it up with the amusing "Trust Me To Open My Mouth", which has a pretty self-explanatory title. Not one of the band's more memorable tracks, the title is probably one of the better things about it. The last offering from this album was "Footprints", an uptempo song which has a great chorus and should have done better.
The last two songs on "Greatest Hits" are from the band's 1989 album "Frank" which was a patchy affair. Holland had left the band again and it showed. "If it's Love" is a typical Squeeze song with Difford's lyrics reflecting on domestic life once more and beautifully sung by Tilbrook. "Love Circles" also reflects on domestic life but this time is sung by Difford, who isn't able to convey emotions the way Tilbrook can. Sadly I think it's a shame that "Greatest Hits" finishes with this song as its quite simply a fairly ordinary song not particularly sung well and it fails to hint at the great music Squeeze still had in them.
There are other Squeeze compilations available which feature music released after 1992 and I would recommend them over this so you can hear some of the excellent music they produced in the 1990s, but if you are wanting the hits, this is only £4.98 on Amazon and worth a punt in my opinion.
Summary: A great introduction to Squeeze