Rebounding after a difficult debut, Squeeze hunkered down with producer John Wood -- the engineer of U.K. Squeeze -- and cut Cool for Cats, which for all intents and purposes is their true debut album. More than U.K. Squeeze, Cool for Cats captures the popcraft of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, while also sketching out a unique musical territory for the band, something that draws deeply on '60s pop, the stripped-down propulsive energy of pop/rock, and the nervy style of new wave. Although this is considerably less chaotic and aggressive than U.K. Squeeze, Cool for Cats feels like it belongs to its time more than its predecessor, partially due to the heavy emphasis on Jools Holland's keyboards and partially due to the dry British wit of Difford, whose best work here reveals him as a rival to Elvis Costello and Ian Dury. Chief among those is "Up the Junction," a marvelous short story chronicling a doomed relationship, but there's also the sly kinky jokes married to deft characterizations on "Slap and Tickle," the heartbroken tale of "Goodbye Girl," and the daft surrealism of "Cool for Cats." These are subtle, sophisticated songs that are balanced by a lot of direct, unsophisticated songs, as Difford picks up on the sexually charged vibe of John Cale and gets even kinkier, throwing out songs about masturbation and cross-dressing, occasionally dipping into how he's feeling slightly drunk. Tilbrook pairs these ribald tales to frenzied rock & roll, equal parts big hooks and rollicking rhythms, including a couple of showcases for Holland's boogie-woogie piano. It's all a bit scattered but in a purposeful way, as the impish wit lends the pub rockers a kinky kick while Tilbrook's tunefulness gives it all an identity. Cool for Cats winds up being wild and weird, angular and odd in a way only a new wave album from 1979 could possibly be, but this is a high watermark for its era with the best moments effortless transcending its time.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine