At the risk of sounding ancient… almost to the point of fossilization, there aren’t a great deal of music tracks around these days which inspire or evoke great feelings for me when listening. The limply represented modern day R&B wailings of new, young artists are forever chugging out from my car radio or blaring from the screens in my kitchen. Each time I find myself having to resort to any other channel.… even the ads if needs be, just to get away from this over-processed, jargonized nonsense.
Having spent the last 45 years enjoying music and lyrics by artists such as Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Prince, Nile Rodgers, George Michael, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Mary J Blige, Amy Winehouse and Beyonce, it’s all gone a bit flat in recent years. Granted, Stormzy seems to be whooping up a critically acclaimed hurricane with tracks such as ‘Shut Up’, ‘Big For Your Boots’ and ‘Know Me From’. But, whilst being good, it all feels a bit like moving onto an Asda burger after having had an Aberdeen Angus steak in my world… call me ‘old -fashioned’….
In stark contrast to this, Squeeze – a band with collective 40 years-worth of successful song-writing and hits, have just released ‘The Knowledge’ and it’s the best amalgamation of words and notes I have heard from anyone in years! Imagine my utter excitement when a chance stumble across ‘Hourglass’ on my radio this summer, led to a renaissance on my ‘Squeeze’ radar and new material was coming out just at that moment!
‘The Knowledge’ is one of those albums with such a high density of amazing lyrics and heavenly chord changes, it evokes one of those feelings where you’re mourning for the idea of ‘what if I had never bought this??’!!
My personal favourites, ‘Rough Ride’, ‘Two Forks’ and ‘Patchouli’ are just so down-to-earth, 24 carat, truly clever; you’re left wondering where that amount of genius has been hiding for so many years since the last major release. Political, nostalgic and atmospheric in equal measures, these tracks in particular have the same die-hard qualities that ‘Cradle To The Grave’, ‘Up The Junction’, ‘Tempted’ and ‘Hourglass’ have ( for me at least), in that they can be played on a constant loop and still bring something new to the table each time. These songs exhibit Chris Difford’s endless talent for poetic observation and Glenn Tilbrook’s innate excellence in musical compilation to absolute perfection.
This is the kind of longevity and contemporary re-invention our metaphorical burgers of music would never be able to emulate.
Squeeze have literally been with me throughout my entire life. From memories of Chris Difford’s ‘couldn’t care less’ TOTP frontman-ship on ‘Cool for Cats’ when I was 7 , to Glenn Tilbrooks’ soulful musings in ‘Labelled with Love’, I can remember exactly where I was and how I felt at every point in my youth; corresponding with these songs. I can remember listening to ‘Hourglass’ every day on the radio as I carried out my work experience in the local psychiatric unit, age 15. As I helped occupational therapy patients rub down their rocking horses with sand paper, I’d pray for Hourglass to brighten up my day; especially as this was the one and only time our catatonic schizophrenic would rock up in the department and stand on his head for 20 minutes. I can remember how I fell madly in love with my very first boyfriend at 16 when his band covered ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ and listening to ‘Some Fantastic Place’ in my haunted university room ‘K’; tucked away in the loft of our all- girls lodge. I had ‘Ridiculous’ playing during labour with my 2nd son (appropriate as it turns out) and on the back of hearing ‘Hourglass’ again this summer, spent the whole of our family holiday in Devon, listening to ‘Babylon and On’.
Last week I took my 2 eldest children (now 13 and 10) to their first ever professional gig. It was Squeeze…. on tour and very luckily for me, in Bristol. Supported by Nine Below Zero, the band were absolutely incredible. They produced all the hallmarks of a confident, deeply talented collection of musicians, all happy with their own professionalism and playing with astounding precision. This heady mix of work and play they exuded, whilst appearing to enjoy the set every bit as much as the captive audience.
The audience themselves were a very particular breed, not always seen in the UK these days. Everyone wanted to be dancing from the minute the band swung into ‘Please Be Upstanding’ at the start; the man in front of us hell-bent on getting everyone to boogie there and then, like it or not! My two boys didn’t quite know what had hit them. Easily being the youngest in the audience, but very used to local gigs and our family playing professionally, they had always been used to adults sedately clapping and giving the odd ‘woo’! This was on another level…everyone, but everyone, wanted to dance…. including me! The whole set was played with immaculate energy and beautiful aplomb; only to be cut short for ourselves by my eldest having an asthma attack and us having to leave before the end. I was mortified all round, but grateful I’d had the chance to see these true legends of contemporary music play ‘for real’. Incredibly, they sound even better live than on vinyl, CD or Spotify.
The only upside of this premature departure is that our pre-pubescent boys are now the next generation of Squeeze addicts. They are determined to read Chris Difford’s new book ‘Some Fantastic Place’ to find out more about the man who puts the ‘art’ into articulation. This can only be a good thing- they’ll probably learn more here than in their English Curriculum.
Needless to say, the next time I’m offered an R&B Happy Meal, I’m going to be much happier ‘Pulling Mussels from a Shell’.
Both ‘The Knowledge’ and ‘Some Fantastic Place’ are currently available on Amazon.