To use a song title from Cradle To The Grave, these are indeed "Happy Times" for Squeeze fans. The band has several dates coming up in the UK and America (November 27 and 28 at Park West in Chicago) and will release this first album of new material in 17 years come mid-November. The album title suits these well-crafted songs, as founding members and critically acclaimed songwriters Chris Difford and GlennTilbrook craft bittersweet reflections on growing up, discovering sex, finding work, and growing older. The clever lyrics, indelible melodies, and harmony vocals are all classic Squeeze.
Anyone who bought the Arse About Face demos EP Squeeze was selling during its 2012 tour should be interested to know that three of those tracks have made it onto Cradle To The Grave, albeit in altered versions. Now that "Tommy," a tale of a racist getting his comeuppance has been transformed into "Sunny," a nostalgic study of becoming a musician, the lilting string accompaniment is fitting instead of ironic. The ska/new wave gem "Top Of The Form" and mean-spirited "Honeytrap" have been recast in more polished arrangements, although it might have been better to leave some of those rough edges intact.
Still, there's a lot here to delight those who have long appreciated Difford and Tilbrook's amazing ability to turn slice-of-life accounts into irresistible pop music. "Haywire" describes a British household where the Dad mixes drinks and his son sneaks in porn magazines, while "Only 15" finds a lad reluctantly losing his virginity at a friend's party. "Nirvana" offers the flip side of Fastball's "The Way" by showing an empty nest couple sinking further and further into a mundane existence inside their home. "Happy Days," which celebrates a summer vacation, and the defiant title track are augmented by spirited singing from a number of guest vocalists. "Snap, Crackle And Pop" ends this introspective album with a positive observation about a lifetime of creating music: "Staying with me to this day/There's nothing that I would change."