Friday, 29 July 2016

So you want to buy East Side Story

So you want to buy East Side Story


Squeeze’s 4th and arguably their finest album was released just over 35 (count em) years ago, at the time peaking at a disappointing 19 in the albums charts, despite critical acclaim and subsequent re-evaluation it’s strangely noticeable by its absence in record racks that are brimming with re-issues of lesser mortals.

Originally conceived as a double album with a different producer for each side, names such as Dave Edmunds & Paul McCartney being bounded about, along with Nick Lowe (who produced the first track on the album) and Elvis Costello, who produced the rest of the album with Roger Bechirian, eventually ended up as a single disc. But what a disc it is.

A Porky Prime Cut

Side A: kicks off with "In Quintessence" , a song that quickly marks that this is a new Squeeze that has completed it’s severing of New Wave links that started on the previous “Argybargy” LP. "Someone Else's Heart" with Chris Difford’s vulnerable vocal a million miles away from the cheeky cockney “Cool For Cats” invokes the same Motown soul take that Elvis used on his 1979 LP “Get Happy”, with some added disco moves on John Bentley’s bass and a hard “Revolver” style backing vocal from Glenn Tilbrook that evoke a bleak outlook on relationships. Jools Holland’s replacement Paul Carrack, the man with the golden voice, leads vocal duties on "Tempted" with the added “Four Tops” vocals from Glenn, Chris and Costello. "Piccadilly" with its clever chord changes is more of Glenn at his song writing best, while “There's No Tomorrow" with its 66 psychedelic vibe leaves you in no doubt that the punk days are over. "Heaven" returns Chris’ vocal to his usual range with its striking out of tune chorus that adds to the whole unsettling feel of this song. The first side closes with the bitter sweet “Woman's World", another masterclass of chords and melody, beautifully complementing Difford’s wry lyrics.
Side 2 wastes no time with the urgent "Is That Love", Beatley without over-fabing the flaming pie. "F-Hole" is East Side Story’s “Tomorrow Never Knows”, pretty much as far from “Up The Junction” as Squeeze had got to this point, which beautifully segues into “Labelled With Love" . County & Weston was a dirty phrase back in 1981 for pop music, however Squeeze and Costello (who would start to record his own country album “Almost Blue” at the time of this album’s release) would confront this prejudice with mild success. Eventually released as a single, it’s fine lyric and melody got it to number 4 in the UK charts.  

Difford & Tilbrook were sometimes referred to as the Lennon & McCartney on the late 70’s & 80’s and songs like the Lennonesque “Someone Else's Bell" certainly did nothing to change that idea. Clever chord changes and melodic limbo aplenty on the marvellous “Mumbo Jumbo" certainly highlight again one of the finest song writing teams of this era. As if that wasn’t enough, the stunning orchestral "Vanity Fair" is beyond words, if you haven’t heard it take a listen here, and bring your tissues.

The album closes with "Messed Around", a shot over the bows to the departed Jools Holland. Glenn Tillbrook admitted  "There was definitely a feeling of 'See what you're missing out on Jools. Look at all the fun you could be having.”

So having built up what I will admit is one of my favourite albums, don’t go rushing out just yet. Since the initial release it 1981, it has not had a vinyl re-issue, with the exemption of a US 1988 repress. Good copies of the ordinal UK A&M pressing can be picked up for reasonable (£5 - £10) on Discogs.

When an album is a good as this, it deserves to be on the shelves and elbowing re-issues of the Human League and ABC out of the way.