Squeeze Domino

Just as the ambitious sprawl of an album like London Calling redefined the capacity of punk rock to reflect and comment on an increasingly complex world, both politically and musically, Squeeze’s East Side Story helped redraw the parameters of pop in the early ’80s and anticipated the promiscuous mixing of styles and stances that would persist throughout the ’80s and ’90s. It also established Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook as one of the most prolific and ingenious songwriting teams since Lennon & McCartney (they actually probably wrote more songs together than the oft-feuding Beatles), a reputation they have carried with them through Squeeze’s subsequent up-and-down career. Domino rates as both an up and a down. The two decades-plus that Squeeze has been around have been very kind to Difford’s and Tilbrook’s voices, and while there’s nothing here that would come close to challenging "Another Nail In My Heart" or "Tempted" as sublime pop songs, their song craft is as acute as ever, matching bittersweet narrative and wry observation with an easy melodic flow. The failings seem to come from the band (a new rhythm section is worked in for Domino) that never really gels. Arrangements actually seem to cut against the grain of the songs, chugging along when the melodic has a wistful drift or filling spaces with gaudy little baubles that jostle with the tunesmithery of Difford and Tilbrook. And when you have a couple of songwriters like that, you’d really think the songs themselves should command all your attention. (Quixotic)