Album Review: Squeeze – The Knowledge
On their fifteenth studio record, the Deptford new wave heroes provide a world-weary wake for middle Britain
Review by Andrew Steel
Has there ever been a singles songwriting partnership as criminally underrated than that of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook? The lynchpin frontmen of new wave heroes Squeeze, their knack for wrapping up life’s idiosyncrasies in a perfectly-observed three-minute pop song brought them a string of successes in the late seventies/early eighties, with cuts like Cool for Cats or Up the Junction; but simultaneously, they barely registered on the album chart, failing to crack the top ten with any studio package released. Their fifteenth record The Knowledge, may yet break that streak; but across a dozen songs, it is far less a celebratory snapshot of older life as a navel-gazing rumination on mortality and the bleaker side of the world.
Where they once rollicked over bittersweet observations, more maudlin sounds are present here. The jaunty Patchouli aside, every guitar solo and accordion blast conveys quiet dissatisfaction or anger. Innocence in Paradise confronts the age-old fear of the slippage of time, over chugging acoustics and swirling organ, as Tilbrook resignedly bemoans that “it won’t be long/’til the final destination/holds my hand and leads me on”. A&E’s overtly political moody-horn arrangement meanwhile is less a skewering satire of NHS cuts, more a painfully on-the-nose plea that threatens to swallow its genuine sentiments.
A Rough Ride is a blessedly soul-and-funk drenched distraction, complete with shrieking female soprano, yet even then austerity measures pervade its lyricism. Final Score goes one step further, tackling the sexual abuse of power, framed within the junior set-up of a football club; The One namechecks fake news with a ground-out frustration. By the time sombre funeral instrumental Elmers End shuffles into view, The Knowledge very much feels like Squeeze’s own wake for middle Britain; reflective, world-weary, standing on ceremony for the next disastrous misstep to befall these shores.