A Harold Robbins’ Paperback, and the Pure Bliss of Squeeze

My most pressing concern these days is which of my friends are willing to come to my house and break their backs trying to move my jukebox from the back landing to the garage. My second most pressing concern is loading the jukebox with as many Squeeze singles as I can find. Luckily, the stalwart, uber-British New Wave/pop band had success in North America at a time when record co’s still made 7 inches, so the best stores are full of their 45s, including all of the hits: :”Take Me I’m Yours,” “Cool for Cats,” “Up the Junction,” “Tempted,” and so on. This one, “Another Nail in my Heart,” is among my favourites, but the list changes week to week. Sometimes, I want to hear an early, synth and drum machine sketch like the farcical electro beat romp, “Slap and Tickle,” and other times it’s the defeated splendour of the seaside epic, “Pulling Mussels from the Shell,” with its fat ladies and vain Adonii and gift store crap that, like our lives, someone will eventually throw a blanket over. “Mussels” is probably the band’s masterpiece, but “Another Nail in my Heart” is no less artful, its petatonic bass runs elevating the musicianship beyond the charming– if typical– clickclicking of the guitar chords, which are played fast here, even though the song would sound just as good at half-speed. Because they were handsome and crafty and relaxed within themselves, Squeeze were always the smooth Hugh Grant of British pop at a time when being strange and angular and on-the-outside-looking-in was a strength, not a weakness. They were taxed, in places, because they were, you know, good, which may partly explain the speedy energy in this piece; a band trying to prove that, despite the fact that they were the lone band of their age that your gramma liked, they could heat the needle, too. Humour, melody and aplomb was accepted as  skill, and even though Glen Tilbrook’s voice is as lovely as his hair, his lyrics are sympathetic, the songs true, and he plays a guitar solo like it means something to him. But maybe their greatest achievement is that, despite trends and taste affectations and hip corners and judgement about what’s cool and what’s not, most people listen to this band without worry. They pull you in, muss your hair, then straighten your tie before you leave. Sometimes being friendly and dependable is as good as being angry and righteous.

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