The Knowledge

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The speedy appearance of The Knowledge -- arriving just two years after 2015's Cradle to the Grave, Squeeze's first album of new songs in 17 years -- suggests it's business as usual for Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, a suggestion that the album itself proves untrue. Where Cradle to the Grave found the duo picking up where they left off on 1998's Domino, The Knowledge is a genuine progression from the veteran pop group, one that finds them exploring new territory. Difford's lyrics are increasingly refined, playing like short stories -- even when he succumbs to a spot of erectile dysfunction japes on "Please Be Upstanding," his jokes are finely honed -- and the precise words find a counterpoint within Tilbrook's elaborate, adventurous songs. Some of this eclecticism can be chalked up to the ornate arrangements, which is an affectation that can occasionally be distracting -- as when "Rough Ride" is nearly subsumed by a children's choir -- but it's often quite thrilling. Heard as individual moments, the songs serve up surprises -- the Baroque, twilight country-rock of "Patchouli," the Euro flair of "Every Story," the light, soulful swing underpinning "The Ones," the lushness of "Elmers End" -- but it all adds up to a finely etched, autumnal affair. There's a bittersweet streak to The Knowledge that's not sad but rather reassuring, as it adds feeling to Squeeze's sophisticated craft. This warm, soulful undercurrent, along with the wry sense of humor, elevates The Knowledge, turning it into a masterly latter-day work.

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