Saturday, July 17, 2010

Art vs. Commerce: Squeeze - Spot the Difference

Ever since I was a kid I have wondered about the term "pop music". Although I figured out at some point that it came from "popular", Ozzy was pretty popular, and no one called his music pop. Somewhere along the line, pop music to some people became music that was not rock. Disposable, lightweight, appealing to the masses, music for kids, made for money not art...these are the kinds of terms used to describe pop. But these are elitist arguments.

Don't get me wrong, I've been called a rock snob or a music snob more than once, and I probably will be again. But my personal definition of pop always starts with The Beatles. Sharply-crafted songwriting, well-produced tracks, strong melodies, fine harmonies - that's the template for me. But can it really be argued that The Beatles were disposable, commercially-driven capitalists devoid of artistic merit, simply pop culture signposts? Doubt it.

At any rate, I almost always want some pop in my rock. I'm a sucker for catchy hooks, indelible melodies, sweet harmonies - these are the elements that often destroy my resistance, the songs that make you want to sing along. Yeah, I like Minor Threat and Motorhead as well as Guided By Voices and Eric's Trip, but I always return to well-produced songs with powerful choruses at some point. If you can remove the art vs. commerce argument, you might find that a lot of the rock music we love contain those pop elements I listed above. For me, it comes down to a simple formula - is there any Beatles in there? An oceanful of the artists I love have some Beatles blood in there somewhere. Robyn Hitchcock? Yup. Cheap Trick? Oh yeah. Kiss? Absolutely. Wilco? Sure. Spoon? I think so. R.E.M.? Stipe would never admit it, but the influence is probably in there somewhere, even if it's been twisted through countless other bands.

After The Silver Beatles, my pop family tree probably stops off at Squeeze. Intelligent lyrics, great hooks, quality musicianship that never veered off into wanking territory...what's not to like? Squeeze have re-recorded 14 of their best-loved tunes and will release them August 3 on an album entitled Spot the Difference. I saw this video on Slicing Up Eyeballs, where the writer pointed out that we should watch for the iPad keyboard solo.

Spot the Difference Track listing:

1. Another Nail In My Heart

2. Black Coffee In Bed

3. Cool For Cats

4. Goodbye Girl

5. Hourglass

6. Is That Love

7. Labelled With Love

8. Loving You Tonight

9. Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)

10. Slap And Tickle

11. Some Fantastic Place

12. Take Me I'm Yours

13. Tempted

14. Up The Junction

You can buy Squeeze here.


Albert Bannatyne said...

I'd pay for an LP of Squeeze live, especially if they played as well as that clip. Shame about the mix though - where's the background vocals and the gtr solo?

And it looks like they hired the drummer from this video - at one point near the end the Squeeze drummer is doing something odd.

chris yackoboski said...

Hey Albert, I find audio from tv is often not of the highest quality. What about the iPad piano solo? Some people are cutting it down - I think it's interesting and kinda funny.