PART OF THE ‘new wave’ crowd of the late 70s/ early 80s, Squeeze were never happy members of this loosest of loose labels. With a lightning approach to lyrics, a love of satire, and a style that descended from the Kinks and The Small Faces, the Londoners often felt more like a pop band fronted by Noel Coward.
There’s no history lesson here today, suffice to say there are many peeps out there with a near-fanatical obsession with the band that probably stretches to pilgrimages to Deptford for those Up The Junction locations.
Cradle To The Grave, released this month, is their 14th studio album and the first since 1998. You can exhale: Jools Holland does not appear on this record. Repeat: no fucking Holland piano playing.
Cradle To The Grave is based around a television comedy starring Peter Kay, which may mean very little to people in Paekakariki or Wollongong. Trust me, it probably isn’t a recommendation, but I look forward to it nevertheless; British comedy, once by far the most agonisingly prophetic in the world, needs a few boosts to its reputation.
To the music. While I haven’t heard any Squeeze records in donkey’s ears, I’m reliably informed by a man in the know that this is their best since the previous best album.
The TV show is based in 1974, coincidentally the year of their formation, and it very much has a nostalgic feel, with The Beautiful Game reminiscing about football in the 1950s when a prima donna demanding his own masseur wouldn’t have even got a trial. It’s hard not to argue with Glenn Tilbrook when he tells us: “Believe me, it was good to be alive.”
In Only 15 the protagonist is “supposed to be in by nine” but is off discovering new, hearty pleasures, but it all ends in a testy meeting the next morning with his mum. Top of the Form is another trip back to teen-days where our hero/ zero doesn’t do as well at school as he should do. “Life was so different for underachievers,” well it would be with the coolest cop show ever, Starsky and Hutch, on the goggle box.
The lyrics are trite but this is memorable for its jugband feel, and other tracks such as Nirvana and Snap, Crackle and Pop are jaunty, upbeat affairs. But there’s space for those easier moods, with violins leading Sunny and Open having a gospel drive, complete with female backing singers.
While there’s undoubted highlights here, and there isn’t really anything dragging the chain, ultimately Cradle To The Grave is written for a TV comedy set in the mid-70s, so songs like Happy Days fit in with their nostalgia-as-happiness outlook. Yes, they fit in the envelope for the television programme, but for the album itself, as a separate entity, Porky may take a bit of convincing.
Instead of a clip of the new single, here’s a preview of the show …