Thursday, May 29, 2008

Argybargy (****)

released February 1980, A&M Records

My ex-wife took all the Squeeze vinyl except for the "Squabs On Forty Fab" single, so when I saw a used copy of Argybargy at Record & Tape Traders (how anachronistic that word tape sounds today!), I immediately scarfed it up. While my GF and countless rock critics wax eloquent on how great the Elvis Costello-produced East Side Story (1981) is, I think Argybargy is the essential Squeeze album, even nudging out the wonderfully lad-ish Cool For Cats (1979). Just take the first three tracks - "Pulling Mussels From a Shell," "Another Nail In My Heart" and "Separate Beds" - which represent two singles and one that should have been, offered up one after the other with no filler in between. ("Pulling Mussels From a Shell" reached #44 on the UK charts and #97 in the US, "Another Nail in My Heart" was #17.) It's the next best thing to listening to Squeeze's "Squabs On Forty Fab" hits medley. Throw in another killer single, "If I Didn't Love You," the ninth track on side two (mysteriously this masterpiece didn't chart), and that's a pretty impressive album. Plus, there isn't a dud in the remaining tracks. The fourth track "Misadventure" keeps the party going full swing after the opening single trio and "Think I'm a Go-Go" concludes side 1 in fine fiddle.

The flip side offers up some nice Jools Holland workouts on "Farfisa Beat" (another single, though it didn't chart) and the Holland-Difford-penned "Wrong Side of the Moon," interspersed with "Here Comes That Feeling," "Vicky Verky," "There At the Top" (another great should-have-been-a-single song) and the ever-clever standout "If I Didn't Love You," with its memorable lines I've never forgotten of "I'm playing your sterogram/Singles remind me of kisses/Albums remind me of plans" (take that iPod Generation!) Yup, when you add it all up, the album "filler" is just as killer as the hits (four singles!) on offer.

The next year would see Jools Holland jump ship to become a successful TV star, a position he maintains to this day, and Squeeze switch management from Miles Copeland to Elvis Costello's man Jake Riviera. And the "new Lennon and McCartney" accolades that came with the OK, but slightly over-hyped East Side Story.

My 1997 CD reissue of Argybargy adds two tracks, "Funny How It Goes" and "Go," while yet another reissue (what is it with record companies forcing fans to buy the same album over-and-over again? Oh yeah, capitalism!), the 2008 Deluxe Edition, adds a 20-track bonus live CD. I'll live with the original, as it was, as I remember it, back in the day.


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