Squeeze

Argybargy

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If any one album were responsible for sowing the seeds of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook's reputation as the new Lennon and McCartney, it's Argybargy, Squeeze's third album and undisputed breakthrough. Squeeze made a great leap forward between their awkward debut and its great sequel, Cool for Cats, but that distance is small compared to the gap between Cool for Cats and Argybargy. Cool for Cats was the work of a rock & roll band -- one that lathered on the keyboards and herky-jerky rhythms, but these were kind of variations on one sound (if not quite one theme). Argybargy doesn't stay in one place; it's restless and crackling with colors, bursting into life with "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," a vivid portrait of a seaside vacation where Difford's vignettes are made all the more vivid by Tilbrook's bright, invigorating pop. As the band's chief melodicist, it's easy to place much of the weight of Squeeze's progression on either Tilbrook or perhaps the band as a whole, as one of the lingering impressions of Argybargy is its brilliant sparkle, how the pop gleams yet is muscular, yet Difford's storytelling and character sketches are improving at a rapid rate, too. This is not foreign territory for Difford -- the previous album's "Up the Junction" was a remarkable story in miniature and it finds a near explicit single in this album's "Vicky Verky" -- but he's honing his wit and sharpening his observations, heard clearly on the clutch of singles that drive the album: the aforementioned "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," the nervy breakup tune "Another Nail for My Heart," and the wonderfully wry "If I Didn't Love You," where Difford anticipates Nick Hornby's High Fidelity with his summation "Singles remind me of kisses/Albums remind me of plans." Singles may give Argybargy momentum but this isn't just surface; the group stretches into some spacy territory on "I Think I'm Go Go," "Misadventure" bristles with pent-up excitement, "There at the Top" bounces to a Motown beat, and "Separate Beds" is one of Difford and Tilbrook's best tunes, capturing the awkwardness of staying at a girlfriend's parents' house for the first time. Not the typical subject for a pop song and the best indication of how Squeeze were deepening. They had not yet left their rock & roll roots behind -- they can kick out agreeable throwaways like "Farfisa Beat" without missing a step, and they give Jools Holland some time to play the boogie-woogie on "Wrong Side of the Moon" -- but with Argybargy it was clear that Squeeze were at the top of the pack among new wave popsters, and that their sardonic yet lively voice was unique among any pop group before or since.

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