Friday, March 30, 2007

MP3 of the Week #8

Squeeze was (is?) a great band. I remember the first time hearing "Another Nail for My Heart" and thinking that song was as good as anything The Beatles did. A lot of their songs were. On top of the pop sheen and melody, the lyrics were often excellent, detailing a loutish, fumbling, mildly self-loathing English working-class existence.

They managed a few hits in America, "Tempted" being the biggest by far, but were done in on the "massive success" level by what kills many bands from the UK in America: inherent Britishness. Their songs were stock full of British slang and references -- even "Tempted" had them (a flannel for my face, the car park, the baggage carousel). When lyricist/guitarist Chris Difford took his occasional turns at vocals, they were sung with a flat cockney accent. That shit just doesn't make it here. And I wish it would, because bands like Squeeze and many others, especially in the 80s, put out some incredible pop music.

When I think of Squeeze, their musical diversity comes most to mind, which recalled how so many artists of the 60s and 70s (Bowie, Elton John, Queen, The Beatles) could effortlessly move between so many sounds, influences, production styles. Songs like "Labelled with Love," along with other "rock" country songs like "Radio Sweetheart" by Elvis Costello or "Faraway Eyes" by The Rolling Stones, served as a nice introduction to country music, and let me know that liking country wasn't the horrible proposition I'd made it out to be in my youth. It took me years to follow-up on their influence, but I always enjoyed it when a pop/rock band took a country turn.

This week's MP3s will be three country songs, courtesy of Squeeze:

"Labelled with Love" appears on a recent "covers" album called South East Side Story by Chris Difford. I say "covers" because he's covering songs he wrote with Glenn Tilbrook, albeit they were done back in the 80s in a distinctive pop style, and with lead singer Tilbrook handling the vocals. What's surprising is that Difford, who was never known for his voice with Squeeze, really shines taking the lead on these songs. The arrangements on the songs are novel, too -- a very smart idea pulled off well. "Labelled with Love" was originally done country style, but this version is still worth having.

"The Truth" is from Squeeze's 1991 album Play. Their 90s album get short shrift, as the band went through various line-ups and no longer had hit singles, but there are still plenty of great songs to be found. That pleading guitar riff and rolling drum pattern are pure country, as are the lyrics, in which the protagonist admits to being a lying bastard and is baffled why his lover doesn't leave him.

"Genitalia of a Fool" is from Glenn Tilbrook's 2004 solo album, Transatlantic Ping Pong, and fans could be mistaken for thinking it's an original with its sly subject matter. But it's a cover of a song by Austin, TX country artist Cornell Hurd that brings to mind the Squeeze song "F-Hole," in which the song's protagonist is caught cavorting with a woman, wearing only a tie, by a bouncer-looking gentleman who turns out only to be a lodger in her house as opposed to an enraged husband. Here you can find the lyrics to Genitalia: a fun song to say the least.

A disclaimer: if the artist, record company or any other entity associated with a song has a legal issue with any MP3 appearing on this site, I will remove the link immediately. Not looking to pirate music here – just looking to spread the word.

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