ADA /Warner Records
A Magnum Opus For The Middle-Aged.
It’s difficult not to argue against Deptford Fun City’s finest sons Squeeze being amongst the finest ever deliverers of British Pop Music singles in the last forty years; and even longer in my own humble opinion.
Their quintessential English ‘kitchen sink dramas’ easily draw comparison with more feted artistes like the Kinks and Madness; and have stood the test of time better than any others from their Post-Punk generation.
But; and even Messrs Difford & Tilbrook agree in various biographies their albums were best described as ‘patchy’.
Following in the footsteps of the fabulous Cradle to the Grave theme song/single two years ago, does their latest effort change that description?
Yes…….and no, is the answer.
THE KNOWLEDGE opens with the cinematic Innocence in Paradise; possibly their most ‘Grown Up’ song to date; and one that deserves radio play; but more on a late night show, where you ‘listen’ to the output rather than daytime when the output is more or less wallpaper.
I love the guitar opening to Patchouli which follows; and as the guys look back on the halcyon days of their youth, I too was transported back to days spent ‘looking out of windows’ and that overpowering smell of Patchouli which conjures up memories of hanging around Handyside Arcade in Newcastle among a whole host of exotic long haired characters.
As I first played this album in the car on a long journey through the Autumnal countryside, it rapidly became obvious that Chris, Glenn and I (AND YOU!) are no longer the Cool Cats out for a bit of Slap n Tickle and the songs here, like the feisty Please Be Upstanding and Final Score are the new soundtracks to my life; as they deal with subjects that are just as taboo as the unwanted pregnancies and alcoholism of their earlier Master-works.
Please Be Upstanding is a typical Squeeze song; a catchy melody and a sing-a-long chorus and…then you go…..OOH! Yep; it really is about erectile dysfunction…….can you think of another Pop song on this subject? Me neither; but it’s an imaginatively constructed song and one that many men will associate with.
Final Score? Phew. If you thought that last song was a strange subject; this one touches on very dangerous ground indeed……the horrible subject of predatory sports coaches and the scars that they leave behind on the young people they effect.
I can’t tell you how proud of Glenn and Chris I am for writing about both subjects so sensitively.
There are also plenty of smiles to be had too; Albatross is a cool song about obsessive Record Collectors (you know who you are!) and the jaunty Skanking Two Forks which closes the record is a less than subtle look at the duo’s own sparky relationship over the last 40 years.
Before I tell you about my ‘favourite song’ I feel it’s my duty to mention two oddities; Rough Ride and Elmer’s End.
The former, Rough Ride sounds like it was a good idea at the time; but a possibly great insight into the current ‘poverty crisis’ and Government induced ‘Austerity measures’ blighting our inner cities includes a female operatic voice and a Pink Floyd type school choir alongside our heroes; which detracts from the ‘message’ that needs to be told; and when you read the lyrics is told very well.
The instrumental Elmers End initially sounded like a droll homage to Glenn Miller at first; but now I’m not even sure that description actually fits.
But……back to the good news…..it’s my ‘favourite track’ time. A&E is the type of relatively simple ‘everyman’ story that first made Squeeze famous; and made me gasp “Yessssss….you beauties” while I drove with tears in my eyes that first day. It begins with the singer taking his wife to A&E an sitting for four hours with her in pain; but coming out with an even stronger love and bond with the Nurses and staff who are underpaid, over worked and constantly belittled and abused by drunks and people with mental health problems…..but still retain their dignity and treat everyone with a smile.
Whatever rewards, financial and otherwise that Chris and Glenn have previously received they should never feel prouder than writing and singing this beautiful love song to the NHS!
That’s all Folks; while not exactly perfect; this just might be the best album Squeeze ever released and even if it’s not (it is!) the best bits are certainly as good as they have ever released in the last 40 years.
Released October 13th 2017