Squeeze

Ridiculous

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Released in the thick of Brit-pop mania in 1995, it would have seemed that Squeeze's eleventh album Ridiculous might have benefited by the peak interest for all things bright, Beatlesque, and British. Certainly, their label felt that way, pushing the band as the forefathers of Brit-pop, a statement that certainly had some merit, as Glenn Tilbrook's music pulled together strains of classic '60s guitar pop and new wave in a manner not dissimilar to Blur, whose Damon Albarn wrote character vignettes not at all dissimilar to those of Chris Difford -- something that the duo acknowledged by covering Blur's "End of a Century" as a B-side for "This Summer," the first single to be pulled from Ridiculous in Britain (the album also happened to have a song called "Great Escape," which just happened to be the title of Blur's sequel to Parklife.) All this hubbub was, like so much marketing, necessary to distinguish a record that for most would seem like just another solid Squeeze record to anyone who wasn't a longtime fan. For those longtime fans, Ridiculous is different than its predecessors Play and Some Fantastic Place but in gentle, subtle ways, chief among them the stripped-down, matter of fact production that is just slightly crisper and livelier than its immediate cousins. This simpler sound could also be due somewhat to the second departure of Paul Carrack from the band's ever-revolving keyboards seat, but at this point it was a given that Squeeze was Difford and Tilbrook's show, even if they let bassist Keith Wilkinson have a tune on the record with "Got Me." Although relations between the two longtime collaborators were getting a little bumpy -- largely due to Difford taking his lyrics to other musicians -- they wound up with a handful of their greatest latter-days songs here. Leading the pack were the first two singles, the hazy, dreamy "This Summer" and the joyous "Electric Trains" which deftly manages to side-step easy nostalgia in favor of keenly observed detail. These aren't the only highlights here: there is delicate, loving "Daphne," a wistful take on father-and-son bonds on "Walk Away," the jangling "Grouch of the Day" which evokes Rubber Soul, plus a couple of traded vocals with Difford and Tilbrook that suggest everything was hunky dory between the pair. Although things would soon quickly unravel -- they lasted just one more record before taking a decade-long hiatus -- here on Ridiculous, Squeeze was still humming along nicely and it stands as a testament to the enduring quality of their craft that the album is every bit as enjoyable as many of the records they released since their post-Difford & Tilbrook reunion.

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