Singles: 45's And Under (A&M ’82) Rating: A
This collection of singles from Squeeze’s first five studio albums contains most of their very best known songs in one place. Not only is it a concise gathering of 12 great tunes, but it also coheres very well as an album since it's sequenced chronologically, allowing the listener to trace the band’s evolution from their new wave, synthesizer laden early sound to the blue-eyed soul of their later work. What links all of these songs together are their catchy, upbeat, humble melodies and earnest, affecting vocals that are never too sweet (though they sometimes come close). Squeeze was an eminently likeable band that grew to become critic’s darlings, especially in the U.K., where principle songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford drew many a Lennon/McCartney comparison, though lyrically their vignettes had more in common with Ray Davies. Perhaps they could’ve used a tougher edge at times, and I far prefer the sweet singing Tilbrook to the rather robotic vocals of Difford, but during their early '80s prime Squeeze was arguably the best pure pop band on the planet, an opinion that's only reinforced by this sterling compendium. Personal favorites include “Goodbye Girl,” a charming, wistfully innocent winner, “Up The Junction,” which matches a terrific short story to a memorable melody, “Another Nail For My Heart,” which boasts the catchiest chorus amid a sea of catchy choruses, “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell),” a driving rocker with another chorus that'll be dancing in your head for days, “Tempted,” the band’s signature song and a blue-eyed soul classic co-written and sung by keyboardist Paul Carrack (who only briefly replaced Jools Holland), and “Black Coffee In Bed,” something of a stylistic sequel to "Tempted" but excellent nevertheless. Really, all of these songs, even the Difford sung early ones that reek of the new wave era, are at least good, with "Slap And Tickle" probably being my least favorite, and the (no longer) new song, “Annie Get Your Gun,” actually belongs amid such stellar company. In retrospect, this compilation was released at just the right time, as the band's subsequent albums didn't fare nearly as well, though being that I've never heard any of them I can't really comment on their quality. As for the early albums, some of them like Argybargy and East Side Story are very good, but whenever I need a Squeeze fix 90% of the time this compilation is the album I reach for, and other fans of melodic, intelligent songwriting will likewise find it hard to resist this collection.

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