Squeeze Argybargy

[A&M; 1980]

Styles: new wave, pop, rock
Others: Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, the Knack

Overlooked by American rock fans upon its original release (and in that sense, functioning as a microcosm of their entire career), Squeeze's Argybargy stands as a testament to how much pure joy can come from a seemingly simple rock album when it’s composed of carefully crafted songs. The band's songwriting team, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook really set the bar high with it, their third official full-length album, and it makes clear why they were viewed by many as successors to the Lennon/McCartney partnership of old - albeit a less wealthy version.

"Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)" charges out of the gates as a fully-realized pop rock confection. Tilbrook's voice is one perfectly suited to such pithy pop ditties - sweet and pure, yet slightly sneering, and in its painting of alternately wistful and incisive portraits of seaside holidays, the song illustrates just how beautifully Difford's lyrics marry with that voice. The crisp, dry production on this song is a constant throughout the album, giving it a wonderfully taut texture that exemplifies the ideal sound of the new wave era. It also lays the songs bare, with only the occasional production embellishment making an appearance.

Trying to select only a few of the highlights on this album is tough, as each track works so well. "I Think I'm Go Go," a lament on the state of confusion that torments a young touring musician captures the unanchored feeling so well that it's like a more delicate and substantial version of "Turn the Page." The story of troubled young love conveyed in the lyrics of "Vicky Verky," partly belied by its upbeat pop veneer, grows more meaningful upon each listen. And for crucial balance, less weighty tracks, particularly the jumpy "Farfisa Beat," are there to make clear that this is the work of a vigorous young band, albeit a band more focused on sly restraint than reckless abandon. 

Having only recently become completely enamored with this album, the restraint was at first a point of concern for me. Here I am at 27, still feeling young and full of life, but I wonder if I'm not becoming too complacent - craving safety over unpredictability. It didn't help when I confessed my Squeeze love to a friend, and he responded that they were a great rock band for people in their 30s and 40s. But considering such things as important in your listening sets one on the path of always chasing the next thing - a path that ultimately passes by many of the most pleasurable gems lurking out there in the annals of rock history. So while Argybargy might never be (or might never have been) the hippest album out there, if approached with an open ear, it offers a world of delight. To deny oneself such pleasure seems immature.

1. Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)
2. Another Nail in My Heart
3. Separate Beds
4. Misadventure
5. I Think I'm Go Go
6. Farfisa Beat
7. Here Comes That Feeling
8. Vicky Verky
9. If I Didn't Love You
10. Wrong Side of the Moon
11. There at the Top