Throughout rock’s history, there have been many great songwriting duos: Lennon and McCartney, Strummer and Jones, Morrissey and Marr, etc. Up there with the best of them, Squeeze’s Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have churned out many classic pop numbers. From singles like “Goodbye Girl” from their formative years to cuts like “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Tempted” that first brought them international acclaim to later hits like “Hourglass,” the pair has produced a remarkable body of work. Even as the band has disbanded and reunited and members have come and go, there has been a consistently high level of songcraft inherent in the music they’ve released, even if the execution hasn’t always been on par.
Only Squeeze’s second album of new songs since regrouping in 2007 (they also released an album of rerecorded classics, Spot the Difference, in 2010), The Knowledge (Love Records) nevertheless bears many of the band’s hallmarks: vocals harmonies, quirky lyrical narratives, and infectious pop hooks. It leads off strongly with the record’s first single (whatever that means in these days of streaming), “Innocence in Paradise,” a moody number tinged with Western-flavored guitars that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the record. Indeed, the mildly pleasant lilting folk-pop number that follows, “Patchouli,” seems inconsequential by comparison, as does “Every Story.” Squeezed between (no pun intended), though, “A&E” comes off as classic Squeeze, with a melody reminiscent of past successes.
“Rough Ride,” a track about the unaffordability of London, stands out as an oddity, with a funk bassline and beat juxtaposed with bouts of operatic singing. It doesn’t exactly work, but it’s not as off-putting as it may read on paper. Better then is “Departure Lounge,” a spacey slice of pysch-pop worthy of its name, and the closing “Two Forks,” a sprightly number that recalls the Mekons at times. The latter track makes comment on Difford and Tilbrook’s longstanding relationship, which has endured over many bumps in the road, no doubt largely a result of the magic that happens when they work together.