[Review] Squeeze: Argybargy (1980)

If you crossed The Beatles with Elvis Costello, you’d end up with something like Argybargy.

Kronomyth 3.0: Their best so far? No argument here.

Cool for Cats, in case you weren’t counting, produced four hits. Argybargy is even better. The opening two tracks are ridiculously catchy and, combined with clever wordplay, pushed my buttons like nothing since Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces. Over the course of the album, Squeeze returns to earth, though more gently than their last. (Their next album never did come down, but that’s a different Story.)

The jump in quality between this album and their last is startling, and you might have said the same between their first and second too. As good as “Up the Junction” and “Cool for Cats” were, I never saw Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) coming. It is simultaneously a highly creative and simply perfect song, the sort of thing that had people reaching back to The Beatles to find a precedent for it.

Glenn Tilbrook found his voice on this album, which meant Chris Difford’s gruff voice took a back seat and the sweetness rose to the surface. Even on the one track where Difford does share lead vocals, If I Didn’t Love You, Tilbrook’s voice is balanced just a bit higher to sweeten it. The album is also notable for brief but highly melodic guitar solos; I’d rank the solo from Another Nail in My Heart among my all-time favorites.

If “Pulling Mussels” left you breathless, don’t expect to catch your breath during “Another Nail in My Heart.” I’m not going to lie to you: those two songs stand head and shoulders above anything else on Argybargy. Even “If I Didn’t Love You,” while catchy, isn’t stunningly so. The rest of the material is consistently good but the work of mere mortals. Jools Holland’s Wrong Side of the Moon is a charmer, Separate Beds is yet another in a pleasant line of boys-meets-girl stories and the kinetically charged Misadventure very nearly works. You can also hear hints of the more mature songcraft to come on songs like I Think I’m Go Go and There at the Top.

I could probably subsist entirely on albums released in 1980: Scary Monsters, Peter Gabriel III, Argybargy, Kings of the Wild Frontier, Black Sea, Get Happy!!, The Up Escalator, Zenyatta Mondatta, Remain in Light and I’d give London Calling a little nudge to push it into the new year. In fact, I would tell you that 1979-1981 produced some of the best pop music in history, although that probably says more about my age than any intrinsic merit in the music, since I believe the early teenage years are when we form our strongest associations with music. Teenagers are experimenting with independence and rebellion, and nothing captures those two emotions as perfectly as rock & roll.

Original elpee version

A1. Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) (4:00)
A2. Another Nail in My Heart (2:55)
A3. Separate Beds (3:20)
A4. Misadventure (2:54)
A5. I Think I’m Go Go (4:16)
B1. If I Didn’t Love You (4:10)
B2. Farfisa Beat (2:56)
B3. Here Comes That Feeling (2:05)
B4. Vicky Verky (3:11)
B5. Wrong Side of the Moon (Jools Holland/Chris Difford) (2:36)
B6. There at the Top (3:48)

All selections written by Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Funny How It Goes
13. Go

2CD Deluxe Edition
A1. Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
A2. Another Nail in My Heart
A3. Separate Beds
A4. Misadventure
A5. I Think I’m Go Go
A6. If I Didn’t Love You
A7. Farfisa Beat
A8. Here Comes That Feeling
A9. Vicky Verky
A10. Wrong Side of the Moon (Jools Holland/Chris Difford)
A11. There at the Top
A12. Funny How It Goes
A13. What the Butler Saw
A14. Go
A15. Pretty One
A16. Going Crazy
A17. Farfisa Beat
A18. Library Girl
A19. If I Didn’t Love You
B1. Argy – Bargy Radio Commercial
Live at Hammersmith Odeon, 9 March, 1980
B2. Slap & Tickle
B3. Touching Me Touching You
B4. Slightly Drunk
B5. Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
B6. Funny How It Goes
B7. Another Nail in My Heart
B8. Cool for Cats
B9. Mess Around
B10. I Think I’m Go Go
B11. If I Didn’t Love You
B12. Strong in Reason
B13. It’s So Dirty
B14. Goodbye Girl
B15. Up the Junction
B16. Going Crazy

The Players

John Bentley (bass), Chris Difford (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jools Holland (keyboards, vocals), Gilson Lavis (drums), Glenn Tilbrook (lead guitar, keyboards, vocals) with Del Newman (string arrangements). Produced by John Wood and Squeeze. Engineered by Andy Lumm, mixed by John Wood and Squeeze.

The Pictures

Design & art direction by Michael Ross. Front cover photography by Mike Laye. Self portraits on back cover photos.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in February 1980* in the UK and the Netherlands (A&M, AMLH/CAM-64802), the US (A&M, SP/CS-4802), Australia** (A&M, L/C37153) and Japan (A&M, AMP-6077) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #32 on the UK charts and #71 on the US charts. (*Appeared in 2/16/80 issue of New Musical Express.) **Credited to U.K. Squeeze in Australia.

  1. Re-released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in 1987 in the US (A&M, SP/CS/CD 3232).
  2. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on May 5, 2004 in Japan (Universal, UICY-3392) with 2 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-released on Deluxe Edition 2CD in 2008 in Europe (Mercury, 9832835) with 24 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2017 in Europe (A&M, SQVR 3).

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