If you think you might enjoy the mashup of Pub Rock and New Wave that this group unleashed on the pop music scene of the ’70s and ’80s I could not recommend any album of theirs more highly than Argybargy.
Squeeze’s prime period with Jools Holland on keyboards encompasses four albums, any of which is worth owning. The band really gets going with their second album, Cool for Cats (1979), pulls it all together and takes it to another level for their breakthrough third, Argybargy (1980), and produces two more of high quality, East Side Story (1981, produced mostly by Elvis Costello) and the darker but equally brilliant Sweets from a Stranger (1982).
I’m a huge fan of all four, as well as two from their later days, the amazing-to-this-day Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985) and the weaker but enjoyable Babylon and On (1987). I play all of them on a regular basis.
If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson and probably quite a few other lesser-knowns from this era, Squeeze is the band for you. I put them right up there with Elvis Costello and Peter Gabriel in the pantheon of British Pop Music of the era.
There’s plenty of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness on the best British pressings — such as this one — qualities the domestic pressings are sorely lacking. If you want to hear this music right, on vinyl it’s British or nothing, and with one of our White Hot Stamper pressings it’s British and everything — everything that’s good about this recording is captured on this very side two. And side one is awful good as well.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
Extension up top was hard to come by on most pressings. When you hear those lovely hights you can hear how much they add to the sound.
The overall sound is rich and tubey, not dry, thin or modern. Clarity and space are nice but not if they come at the expense of the smooth, rich, natural sound of tubes (whether there are tubes in the chain or not).
Notes by Wikipedia
Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
Pulling Mussels” received positive reviews from music critics. It has been variously described as “a timeless cult classic”, “a brilliant slice of pop genius”, “a pop classic of the new wave era”, and “a piece of pop mastery.”
In 2007, Anna Borg wrote, “The build up before the chorus always gets me, even 25 years later.” Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the song as “a vivid portrait of a seaside vacation where Difford’s vignettes are made all the more vivid by Tilbrook’s bright, invigorating pop.” It is regarded as one of Squeeze’s catchiest songs.
The phrase “pulling mussels” is British slang for sexual intercourse, mainly used in England.
Another Nail in My Heart
I Think I’m Go Go
Chris Difford said about the lyrics, “This was a song about touring, which could be a very strange experiences. It would get to the stage where I’d think ‘I don’t know where I am, I don’t know which county I am in, what time we’re onstage, or who I’m sleeping with.’ ‘I think I’m go go’ was the turn of phrase in the band at the time.” Difford continued, “Interestingly, this song was very popular in America. The first verse is about being in Amsterdam because a lot of our early gigs were in Holland. Glenn’s dad lived out there and he used to arrange gigs for us. It was always good fun playing there. The second verse is about New York and mentions liquor stores, rodeos and PIX, which was an American radio station. The last verse is about London.”
Glenn Tilbrook said of the song, “This was a step forward in our imaginations. It was influenced lyrically by the fact we have been whopped around the head and rendered bewildered by the amount of traveling we’d been doing. We all found it bewildering, but I had the sense that Chris probably felt this more so than the rest of us.” Tilbrook also said, “It’s very Beatles-like and also has a similar sound to our song, ‘The Knack’. There’s a direct through line from ‘The Knack’ to ‘I Think I’m Go Go’, with that sense of other-worldness. The use of strings added to that feeling. I wanted to contrast real strings with synth strings and change the feel between the verses. This meant the listener got a sense of being jolted out of one mood or another.”Side Two
Here Comes That Feeling
If I Didn’t Love You
Glenn Tilbrook said, “This is a really storming lyric from Chris [Difford] and was chosen as a different single in America. It was a massive radio hit there, particularly on the East Coast, whereas it was just an album track in Britain. The lyric caught a lot of people’s imaginations because of that thing Chris does so well, picking up on small, almost irrelevant details. What he wrote here rang absolutely true to me and was all the more powerful for it.” Tilbrook continued, “The line ‘The record jumps on a scratch’ was such a gift that I had to use it, so we sang ‘If I, If I, If I, If I, If I.'”
Chris Difford said, “I used to love playing this song live. Glenn and I sang it together as a duet, an octave apart. Lyrically it has to be my proudest moment from [Argybargy] and it takes me back to New York when I was living there and writing lyrics. It’s about the early cozy part of a relationship, which I call the nesting stage. It’s a lovely place to be, somewhere where I think people only go two or three times in their life. At the same time it has that juxtaposition of emotions saying ‘If I didn’t love you I’d hate you,’ because at the back of your mind you’ve got that insecurity about your inability to have a proper relationship with somebody.”
Difford also praised Tilbrook’s guitar solo, saying, “I also love Glenn’s slide guitar solo. When he first did it I thought ‘This guy’s out of his tree. What’s he doing?,’ but it’s brilliant.”
Wrong Side of the Moon
There at the Top
If any one album were responsible for sowing the seeds of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook’s reputation as the new Lennon and McCartney, it’s Argybargy, Squeeze’s third album and undisputed breakthrough. Squeeze made a great leap forward between their awkward debut and its great sequel, Cool for Cats… with Argybargy it was clear that Squeeze were at the top of the pack among new wave popsters, and that their sardonic yet lively voice was unique among any pop group before or since.
Squeeze are a British band that came to prominence in the United Kingdom during the new wave period of the late 1970s, and continued recording successfully in the 1980s and 1990s.
They are known in the UK for their hit songs “Cool for Cats”, “Up the Junction”, “Tempted”, “Labelled with Love”, “Black Coffee in Bed”, “Another Nail in My Heart”, “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” and “Hourglass”. Though not as commercially successful in the United States, Squeeze had American chart hits with “Tempted”, “Hourglass” and “853-5937”, and they have a dedicated following there and continue to attract new fans.
All of Squeeze’s hits were written by band members Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, with the former penning the lyrics and the latter handling the composition. The duo were hailed as “the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne” during their peak of popularity in the early 1980s.
This is one of the band’s Masterpieces as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.
What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so memorably wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”
For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record: 1) must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio enthusiast been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music”; 2) my sixty year old self must currently respect the album, and; 3) I must think I will want to listen to the music fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).
How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles are coming online as time permits.