"Tempted," "Pulling Mussels (From A Shell)," "Cool for Cats," "Take Me I'm Yours," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Black Coffee in Bed," "Up the Junction" - with one of the most impressive catalogues in contemporary music. Squeeze have long ago assumed their rightful place in the pop pantheon. Now, Ridiculous, released June 11, 1996 on I.R.S. Records, brings us fresh Squeeze - once more, from the fertile imaginations of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, come melodies both deft and memorable and lyrics by turns wry, keenly detailed and wise.
With characteristic largesse, Difford and Tilbrook have crammed Ridiculous with gems. Check the sunny charm of the first single, "This Summer," the structural perfection of "I Want You," "Sound Asleep" and "Temptation of Your Love" (the last, graced with flamenco-tinged guitar). As ever, Difford's lyrics are sharp and imagistic ("...he arrived home late/with no more blood cells to inebriate," "The clouds puffed like bags of sweets/It was just my luck I couldn't eat"). And with each number, Tilbrook springs new musical surprises. Produced by Tilbrook and featuring longtime bass cohort Keith Wilkinson and drummer Kevin Wilkinson, the album is sure to usher Squeeze back into the spotlight. In their native England, there's already a buzz, as such bright new stars as Blur and Supergrass laud the band who paved the way for the British pop revival.
Taking their name from a Velvet Underground album and coming of age in the mid Seventies alongside such New Wave peers as The Police and Joe Jackson, Squeeze established themselves once and for all as masters of intelligent pop. Early classics like Squeeze, Cool for Cats, Argybargy and East Side Story, combined pub rock accessibility with sly sophistication. In
songs peopled with sharply observed characters and driven home by ingenious melodic and rhythmic twists, the group fashioned musical short stories - vignettes that captured the essential raptures and comic rubbish of modern life. Sweets from a Stranger. Cost Fan Tutti Frutti and Babylon and On advanced the adventure as Difford and Tilbrook continued writing at a furious rate (1,000 songs to date!).
Working consistently with the best of players, the duo oversaw one of the best bands going. Through its ranks would pass ace keyboardists Jools Holland and Paul Carrack; both Difford and Tilbrook would partner Elvis Costello (on E.C.'s Trust and Imperial Bedroom, respectively) and release their own album (1984's Difford & Tilbrook): the band's producers, too, would often be legends (John Cale, Costello, Laurie Latham). Themselves expert guitarists and singers (Tilbrook favoring a smoother delivery, Difford a tougher approach), the Squeeze mainmen, however, kept their focus clear: everything they did served the strength of their songs.
With Frank, A Round and a Bout. Play and Some Fantastic Place. Squeeze entered the Nineties, still peerless at turning out material both inventive and memorable.
Ridiculous builds on the legacy. And it builds a many-storied mansion. There's wistful nostalgia, a remembrance of things past in "Walk Away" and "Electric Trains" ("I was called a mommy's boy by friends I didn't like"). There's both wit and tenderness in "Grouch of the Day," while "Got to Me" offers a remarkable sketch of the itch of desire ("Love is the liar and no one can blame..."). Wordplay and syncopation enliven "Daphne" ("Don't be so cavalier/All that you want is here"), and, as brushes dance off the snare
drumhead, "Fingertips" hauntingly tells of romantic obsession. From the soulful 3/4 elegance of "Heaven Knows" to the celestial back-up vocals on "Great Escape," Ridiculous is a triumph equally of heart and of craft.
Squeeze, then, moves ahead. And with them they take an audience as diverse as the music they make. Music for the ages. Music for right now.