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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : SQUEEZE PLEASE ME

September 20, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

* * * "BABYLON AND ON." Squeeze. A&M. In the early '80s, Squeeze released three knockout LPs that established it as one of the Great White Hopes of pop. Top 10 classicists in the tradition of the Beatles, the British quintet had all the giddy charm of pop at its best and scored a string of hit singles in Europe. In 1982, the group members decided they could no longer stand the sight of each other and went their separate ways, only to reunite for a disappointing comeback album in 1985.

Here, at last, is the comeback LP Squeeze fans have been waiting for. A vast improvement over their last record, which was flawed with meandering melodies and murky production, "Babylon" features tight, sprightly tunes you find yourself humming after a single hearing--the acid test of a pop song.

Squeeze's writing team of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook continues to be the group's trump card. Like Elvis Costello, lyricist Difford is a master of clever wordplay, most of which dissects the attraction/repulsion of romantic love; Difford's songs are infused with the passion and fear that come with forbidden liaisons, jealousy, and worn-out affairs that have overstayed their welcome.

Whereas Difford used to spin winsome tales of the British middle class struggling to get laid and/or right with itself, he's been a pop star for too long to write about that world with the first-hand knowledge he once had. Too talented a writer to stoop to rock-star "road songs," he's found a new way to connect with his listeners. The telling details that placed his earlier songs squarely in a shabby bed-sit in Brighton have given way to one man's internal dialogue on the subject of love. These new songs exist almost entirely in the head and hence have a universality that is icing on the cake. What really gives these songs staying power is the fact that they sound so great.

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