Squeeze

Play

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    8
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One of Squeeze's most mature and thoughtful albums, 1991's Play might be a bit pretentious in spots -- the liner notes are written out as a theatre script, with the songs laid out as dialogue -- but it's probably Squeeze's best post-reunion album. Shorn of the misguided experiments of Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti and the naked chart ambitions of Babylon and On and Frank, Play is a simple and low-key collection of songs charting (loosely; this is less of a concept album than many reviews claimed at the time) the dissolution of a love affair. Reduced to a quartet by Jools Holland's departure for a career as a BBC television presenter (the group's South London homeboy Steve Nieve, tour keyboardist Matt Irving, and more implausibly, Bruce Hornsby provide the keyboards), the group play with a loose, R&B-inflected casualness. Producer Tony Berg, unfortunately, occasionally obscures that character by drowning the songs in strings and mass backing vocals (including special appearances by Michael Penn, Wendie Colter, and Spinal Tap's Michael McKean and Christopher Guest!), but the Difford/Tilbrook songs are mostly strong enough to withstand the onslaught. "The Truth" and the downcast "Walk a Straight Line" are particular highlights.

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