1981, Music

East Side Story (1981) by Squeeze

Can I admit something to you? I thought “Tempted” was from the ’60s. Of course, if I’d really listened to it, I might have noticed it wasn’t. But I became familiar with it when I was young and before I had an ear that could spot time and genre differences. And I guess I just assume from then on. Let me tell you: I was positively shocked when it came on and I Googled it and saw it was an original.

I can’t help but blame Squeeze’s craft and stylistic commitment to explain why I was fooled. (It couldn’t have been my fault!) The older I get the more I’m receptive to bands that are able to update old styles for the present. (Something I used to really dislike, unless it was a style I really liked.) Squeeze’s brand of power pop is distinctly traditional but also has enough modern touches to confuse people into calling it “new wave.”

One key to their success is that the songwriting is pretty high quality. “Tempted” is the most famous song here, but there are plenty of catchy songs.

The aesthetic is “new wave” in only the broadest, most meaningless sense of the term. Squeeze were supposedly more new wave on earlier albums but I wouldn’t know. This is pretty traditional-sounding music through the lens of the early ’80s, that is very similar to what the Jam was up to before they went post punk, only the influences are different. Maybe its their charisma or something but I’m usually annoyed by music this traditional-sounding in modern clothes. (The post punk esque bass helps with that, I think.)

The production has mostly aged well, even when they go vaguely psychedelic – in the vaguest sense – on “There’s No Tomorrow” it doesn’t sound particularly like ’80s guys trying to imitate the ’60s, more just like someone inspired by the ’60s.

Anyway, I like this more than a lot of the “power pop posing as new wave” of the early 1980s.


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