Squeeze released their third record, ‘Argybargy’, in 1980 and, stylistically, it’s very much in the same vein as its most recent predecessor from the year before. This means that all of the goods are back this time around and the band’s greatest strength, cultivating an irresistible charm inside of some quirky pop melodies and themes, sits at the forefront of the record. One might be able to argue that the only significant difference between the two records is that this record feels more cohesive as an overall product than its predecessor, but even that would be a tough argument to wage.
This record opens with the track “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)”, which is a prime example of what this band was always capable of doing so well. There’s a bit of the same quirky vibe one might find on a Joe Jackson or Elvis Costello record, though Squeeze utilize this vibe inside of a musical context that is much more condensed to the basics of pop/rock; generally speaking, this band doesn’t include the sort of musical eccentricities that Jackson or Costello often do. This isn’t to take anything away from this band, whose ability to consistently pump out high-quality, straightforward pop ditties is something that is only rivaled by a distinct handful or two of artists who have popped up throughout the years. On the third track of the record, “Separate Beds”, the band show that they are more than capable of displaying a musical flexibility. Perhaps the most striking thing about this band, though, is their sense of vocabulary throughout the songs. There is heartbreak in these songs, but there isn’t a prolonged sense of despair to accommodate the heartbreak. Rather, the band seem to tackle the subject of heartbreak with a sense of modesty, objectivity, and humorousness that represents the heart and soul of their lyrical center. One of the more peculiar tracks on the record is “Farfisa Beat”, with its bizarre, almost alien keyboard passages. The band keep the less obvious moments of the record held in subtle check, as to not be any sort of possible distraction.
Like ‘Cool for Cats’ the year prior, ‘Argybargy’ is a great pop record. There are very few instances where this record takes a wrong turn or becomes boring. It’s worth noting that Squeeze are a band that rarely gets any kind of credit. Many listeners simply remember them as the band that recorded “Tempted”, but this is a sorry mistake. There were very few bands around at this particular time in music who were making infectious pop grooves and melodies with the kind of ease that Squeeze were able to. This record also accomplishes being strong from start to finish; the lesser-known tracks are just as good as the more popular tracks. When all is said and done, however, it’s this band’s irresistibly quirky charm that is the grandest testimony to this record’s strength and, to be sure, the longevity of this often underappreciated band. What a culture difference from back then to today’s musical climate! If only today’s pop music scene had this band’s level of self-awareness and sense of humor.