A very bumpy ride, or so I always thought, sticking my head out the window to howl a curse to John Cale in the rush of wind. But it’s 3:30 in the morning (again), and I’m amenable to anything, even noisy, precocious and sometimes preposterous power pop that might have otherwise fallen from the long-chapped lips of any number of late ‘70s also-rans (Wreckless Eric, The Payola$). The band’s first proper album comes with a caveat: you’ll need to do some digging to find the little melodic treasures that spilled so easily from Argybargy and its ilk. Obstacles include egregious instances of noisemongering, a few tracks of plain filler, and tantalizing bits of melody that serve as the album’s unreachable itch. It’s clear even here that melody is not their enemy, so why would they go out of their way to sound like young, snotty punks? Legend (and since I never look anything up, it’s always legend) goes that Cale had the band write new material for the album, which would explain soft spots like “The Call” or the instrumental “Wild Sewerage Tickles Brazil.” And even The Police fell victim to the noisy rebellion of new wave at first (while wisely avoiding the inevitable “Fallout”). The album isn’t juvenilia, but songs like “Sex Master,” “Bang Bang” and “Hesitation (Rool Britannia)” may jostle the sensibilities of latter-day Squeeze fans. More likely to please this contingent are “Out of Control,” “Model” and “First Thing Wrong,” bits of which evince the prince charmings beneath an otherwise froggy exterior. U.K. Squeeze (or simply Squeeze in the U.K., since there wasn’t a legal challenge to the name over there) is closer to punk rock than pub rock, a point which will scare off pop purists. However, if you’re a fan of the band (and I am), you’ll squeeze something sweet from this unripe fruit. Oh yeah, and “Take Me I’m Yours” is on here too, which I’ve never liked (fyi, it is not an accurate gauge of this album).
Kronomyth 10.0: BIG BAND AID. 20 years ago, Jools Holland seemed fated to be a footnote—the original keyboard player in a band (Squeeze) that had already gone through three of them. And then there was his first solo album, Jools Holland and His Millionaires, which was released as Squeeze stunned the world with their retirement, turning every head back to Misters Difford and Tilbrook. Fate, however, has a funny sense of humor, even if it takes a while to reach the punchline. Fast-forward 10 years and Holland is an international star as the host of his own highly popular musical television show, Later… With Jools Holland. Later… brought a who’s who of musical personalities into contact with Jools, many of whom joined Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra (a big band built specifically by Holland) for live jam sessions during the program. This album is the first in a series that pairs Holland and his Orchestra in the studio with a rock & rolodex that anyone would envy: Sting, George Harrison, Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, Jamiroquai, Eric Clapton, and I wouldn’t dare “et cetera” anybody else but there are more stars where those came from. Usually, you don’t get an album like this unless somebody is either dying or starving. A good half of the album has Holland and his Band backing the artists on interpretations of songs by Ray Charles, Willie Dixon, Billy Preston, The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, Jonny Mercer, Screaming Jay Hawkins and others. The other half—the better half, surprisingly—is original material cowritten in most cases with Mr. Holland himself: “Valentine Moon,” “Orange and Lemons Again,” “All That You Are.” The styles are as eclectic as the artists themselves and include ska, soul, blues and rock. And far from the perfunctory performances you could rightly expect from an album like this, many of the artists sound rejuvenated; Dr. John, Steve Winwood, Van Morrison, Paul Carrack and John Cale seem absolutely energized in the studio. I hadn’t expected much from this disc, certainly not 22 tracks of new, quality music, but Big Band’s got some big hands to hold it all together. Looks like we’ll need to leave some pretty big margins at the bottom for this footnote, since Holland is living large.