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Sweets from a Stranger

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Album Review

Sweets from a Stranger can be summed up by the title of one of the best songs on Squeeze's fifth album: this is where the hangover strikes, where the band's rapid progression finally caught up with it. It's as much mental as it's musical, as it's clear that Squeeze were tired out from touring, from all the carousing — nearly every song here has a reference to drinking or its aftermath — from the roundabout of keyboard players that led to Paul Carrack bailing after just one album (replaced here by Don Snow), perhaps even from all the acclaim that led to no big hits, so they wound up largely ditching the pop classicism of East Side Story for a gangly new wave experimentalism that contains none of the nervy energy of Cool for Cats. Worst of all, almost all their missteps — the thundering electronic drums of "Out of Touch"; the stiff, self-conscious disco of "Strangers on the Shore" and its wannabe Bowie cousin, "On the Dance Floor" — are all piled up toward the beginning, burying the times where the band pulls it together. Momentum starts to shift on the self-styled saloon song "When the Hangover Strikes" — its smoky Sinatra-isms standing out starkly next to the ham-fisted new wave dance that surrounds it — and things roll smoothly for a while, peaking with the sublime "Black Coffee in Bed" — a post-breakup tune that could have easily slid onto East Side Story — but continuing with the galloping "I've Returned" and its less frenetic equal, "His House Her Home," before closing with the shimmering, gorgeous "Elephant Ride." These are the moments that provide a strong connection to the Squeeze of East Side Story, and that band can still be heard elsewhere on Sweets from a Stranger beneath the new wave clatter, but the whole thing adds up to a knackered affair. Squeeze needed a breather and they took one after this, disbanding for a few years while Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook pursued other avenues. [Universal's expanded 2008 reissue of Sweets from a Stranger is loaded up with eight bonus tracks, many of which correct the sonic problems of the album proper: the bright new wave pop of "I Can't Get Up Anymore" and the light, sprightly "When Love Goes to Sleep," both bonus tracks on the 1997 expanded reissue; the single of "Annie Get Your Gun," which also appeared on the comp Singles 45's and Under, and its lark of a flip, "Spanish Guitar"; the limited-edition single version of "I'm at Home Tonight"; the B-side of "When the Hangover Strikes," the infectious "Elephant Girl"; Tilbrook's demo of "His House Her Home," initially called "Tomorrow's World"; plus a demo of "Wherever We Met" and "Last Call for Love," which fits in nicely with the alcohol-soaked Sweets.]

Biography

Formed: 1974

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '10s

As one of the most traditional pop bands of the new wave, Squeeze provided one of the links between classic British guitar pop and post-punk. Inspired heavily by the Beatles and the Kinks, Squeeze was the vehicle for the songwriting of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who were hailed as the heirs to Lennon and McCartney's throne during their heyday in the early '80s. Unlike Lennon and McCartney, the partnership between Difford and Tilbrook was a genuine collaboration, with the former writing the...
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