"Is That Love" / Squeeze
I'm all psyched because I've got tickets to go see Squeeze tonight!! Even better, the opening act is Fountains of Wayne; now that's a double bill I couldn't resist. I'm a little bummed that this Squeeze reunion tour doesn't include Paul Carrack -- I think the period when he was with them was their best -- but so long as both Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook are on stage, it counts as Squeeze.
I never really consider Squeeze a New Wave band -- they were always more fun and clever than serious New Wavers like the Talking Heads or even their pal Elvis Costello. I put them in a camp with Joe Jackson and XTC, irresistible popmeisters with a gift for hooks, riffs, and melodies you can't get out of your head. Just listen to the breathless energy of "Is That Love" -- it almost distracts you from the fact that this is one jaundiced view of the war between the sexes.
It's a pretty snarky catalog of domestic wrongs -- "You've left my ring by the soap...You cleaned me out, you could say broke...You won't get dressed, you walk about...A teasing glance has pushed me out" -- each one followed by the wistful complaint, "Now is that love?" But it seems like this guy is perfectly capable of fighting back, as he relates in the bridge: "Beat me up with your letters, your walk-out notes, / Funny how you still find me right here at home. / Legs up with a book and a drink / Now is that love that's making you think." I can just see him, coolly waiting for her return, acting like it's no big deal. (Why, I've pulled that one myself.) Nothing like taking the hot air out of a melodramatic scene to really piss off somebody.
So what is love? Hanging in there, forgiving, being patient -- "The better better better it gets / The more these girls forget / That that is love," or as he sings the third time around, "It's the cupid cupid cupid disguise / That more or less survived / Now that is love." But the brisk finger-wagging tempo doesn't exactly sound patient and loving, and the melody keeps taking testy dips into minor keys. There's plenty of edge to this track, just like I like it.
Difford and Tillbrook were often billed as "the next Lennon & McCartney" -- a pretty daunting label for anybody to live up to. The similarities are clear, given their bouncy melodies and deft wordplay. To me, though, they are just as much the heirs of Ray Davies; the best Squeeze songs are perfectly crafted little short stories, full of psychological complexity, just like the best Kinks songs. I get such a sense of this couple, the way they're gritting their teeth and taking sly swipes at one another. No one's throwing the telly through the window, at least not yet (just compare this to the marital warfare in Dr. Feelgood's "Don't Wait Up"). But hey, that could start any minute now -- fasten your seatbelts!
Is That Love sample