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Cool for Cats

A&M 4751
Released: June 1979

Chris DiffordGlenn TilbrookFormerly U.K. Squeeze, this British fivesome mostly blends pop frivolity with arty synthesizer textures on its second album, which owes as much to the Beatles and 10cc as to the progressive fringe of the New Wave. Squeeze's format certainly has its pleasures -- "Slap & Tickle" combines clever sexual nonsense verse with what sounds like the mating squeals of laboratory animals -- but Cool for Cats too often offers more tedium than titillation.

The band's chief problem resides in its two alternating lead vocalists, Glen Tilbrook and Chris Difford, both of whom usually sing with puzzling and dull reserve. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics of "It's So Dirty" and "Touching Me Touching You" (the latter an ode to masturbation) demand real vocal verve to sustain interest. Not surprisingly, Squeeze is most successful in parts of "Slightly Drunk," "Goodbye Girl" and "Slap & Tickle," where the singers let loose to harmonize endearingly.

If Tilbrook and Difford were more convincing, it'd be easy to admire this record. There are plenty of perky melodies ("It's So Dirty," "Up the Junction"), some shadowy synthesizer work ("The Knack") and lots of engagingly understated guitar lines. Maybe next time, Squeeze will come up with a winner. As Cool for Cats's best moments suggest, they have it in them.

- Mitchell Schneider, Rolling Stone, 7-26-79.

Bonus Reviews!

Squeeze used to be known as "U.K. Squeeze" but dropped the prefix when confusion resulted in their being mistaken for a group called "U.K." In any event, the two groups are quite different: U.K. wallows in "university" type stews and gloom-and-doom lyrics, but Squeeze, rather than searching for spiritual values, takes it for granted that the human race is a pack of contemptible damned fools. The outer limits of British humor sometimes come as a shock to Americans, who are not used to the explicit sexual frankness common to BBC TV productions, nor to the violent and almost psychotic cynicism of English satirists, from Jonathan Swift to Monty Python, from the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band to Squeeze.

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Among the subject treated in this album are assault and battery, masturbation, scandal-mongering, alcoholism, murder, and other raw-meat enterprises. The melodies are non-existent, the lyrics are hilarious and bitter, and the performances are eerie and deliberately mechanical. Squeeze is very funny, and a bit scary.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 8/79.

The five-man group formerly known as U.K. Squeeze again emphasizes hard-edged power pop on its second album for A&M. All of the songs are originals and all feature guitar, keyboards, drum and bass. The new wave inroads made by such acts as Elvis Costello could aid this hard-rocking album. Best cuts: "Slap And Tickle," "Hop, Skip And Jump," "Up The Junction," "It's So Dirty."

- Billboard, 1979.

Power poppers (remember them?) suck this stuff up, and I understand why -- not only does its songcraft surpass that of the band's debut, but it also isn't quite as sophomoric. It's sophomoric enough, though, and like so many such records makes you wonder where the power is. Not in the vision, that's for sure. And not in the beat. Great song: "Up the Junction." B

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The band's second album shows a great leap in songwriting skills. While an emphasis on English themes can leave most Americans bewildered, the catchy pop melodies crossed with a pub rock sensibility are simply irresistible. Highlights include "Cool for Cats" and "Up the Junction," a pure pop masterpiece. * * * *

- Chris Woodstra, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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