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Squeeze: The Complete BBC Sessions

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Album Review

Squeeze's The Complete BBC Sessions runs from 1977 until 1994 — from the release of their debut EP until just after their tenth album, 1993's Some Fantastic Place — and that time span suggests that the double-disc, 29-track collection covers more ground than it does in actuality. As it happens, Squeeze didn't have too many BBC Sessions during their salad days of 1979-1982, when they were one of the biggest and best new wave bands: they only had one in March of 1982, a few months before Sweets from a Stranger, where they managed to not perform any of the album's singles but did find room for the B-side, "Elephant Girl." That's a pretty good indication of the for-fans' nature of The Complete BBC Sessions — not to mention a pretty good example of Squeeze's subtle commercial self-sabotage — but even diehards might be surprised by how these radio performances play as a collective package, how the first eight tracks speed by in a cacophonic blur, and how Squeeze quickly settles into a mellow unplugged groove. Of course, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook were instrumental in pioneering that stripped-down acoustic sound as the '80s gave way to the '90s, appearing on the very first episode of MTV Unplugged just weeks after they performed on the Saturday Sequence BBC session that closes disc one here, so it's no great surprise that most of this collection does offer variations on that sound — sometimes including full band support, sometimes just featuring a piano and acoustic — including a nice 1992 set where they rework "Take Me I'm Yours," "Up the Junction," "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)" (made into a medley with "Labelled with Love") and "Tempted." There are two other versions of "Tempted" on the second disc, along with two versions of "Some Fantastic Place," so the set list isn't as varied as the setting, and even that difference is rather minute as the vibe is always simple, warm, and direct. Barring those first few chaotic sessions, the performances here are always close and intimate, and that atmosphere serves Difford and Tilbrook's songs well, offering a good showcase for Difford's wry storytelling and Tilbrook's finely honed melodies. None of Squeeze's other live recordings comes close to capturing this coziness and that's why this collection is valuable for more than just completists.


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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