Babylon and On
Q Magazine, 1987.
Rating: **** (out of 5)
Reviewed By: Phil Sutcliffe.
It's sheer craft, and it's rigorous as ever here on their second LP post-reformation: choice of detail, choice of word, the melody and sound that exactly catch the mood, empathy for the material running through the band all the way to drummer Gilson Lavis (who challenges Stewart Copeland as a percussive commentator on well-turned songs). I mean, some very famous lyricists have arrived at the line Then I saw her standing there, but Difford is the one, in The Waiting Game, who precedes it with I played with a handful of peanuts-there's our boy, behold, the party-pooper who's let worries about his unpunctual girlfriend give him a very nasty evening.
Precision. That's what they bring to a battered-wife song, Tough Love. No hand-wringing cliches. The man is a drunk junkie; the woman is determined not to lose him. Guilty man sits out the night in the car, then He wanders inside on tiptoes and brews up some coffee/He's shaking and sweating again. The chorus says She knows that tough love is needed to save the love of her friend. With a track called In Today's Room they even have the insouciance, the gall, to consider Time-you know, the relationship between the present and eternity, the Condor moment versus Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity-in terms of boy meets girl, and reach QED within the parameters of a potential hit single.
The only thing that can be slightly wearing about a dozen straight tracks of Squeeze is Tilbrook's earnest voice, oddly like Boy George's but lacking the colour. However, I suspect as co-producer he acknowledges this limitation and his vocals are brilliantly set aid subtle variations on the basic Squeeze pop group format. Apart from the acid rock appeal of Difford's coarse-cut back-ups there's an array of horn riff, string sweetenings, and imaginative keyboard work with Jools Holland and/or his lieutenant Andy Metcalfe particularly good on organ underpinnings and unlikely adornments from the, um, it has to be said, squeezebox. In their own way they're building a career as substantial and durable as, say, Randy Newman.
Squeeze Please Me
Los Angeles Times
September 20, 1987
Review by Kristine McKenna
Here, at last, is the comeback Squeeze fans have been waiting for. A vast improvement over their last record, which was flawed with meandering melodies and murky production, Babylon features tight, sprightly tunes you find yourself hummlng after a single hearing - the acid test of a pop song.
Squeeze's writing team of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook continues to be the group's trump card. Like Evis Costello, lyricist Difford is a master of clever wordplay, most of which dissects the attraction/repulsion of romantic love; Difford's songs are infused with the passion and fear that come with forbidden liaisons, jealousy, and worn-out affairs that have overstayed their welcome.
Whereas Difford used to spin winsome tales of the British middle class struggling to get laid and/or right with itself, he's been a pop star for too long to write about that world with the first-hand knowledge he once had. Too talented a writer to stoop to rock-star "road songs," he's found a new way to connect with his listeners. The telling details that placed his earlier songs squarely in a shabby bed-sit in Brighton have given way to one man's internal dialogue on the subject of love. These new songs exist almost entirely in the head and hence have a universality that is icing on the cake. What really gives these songs staying power is the fact that they sound so great.
Picks & Pans
November 2, 1987
Review by Eric Levin
In the early 90s, "Babylon and On" was reissued on CD in a 2-pack with "East Side Story". Click HERE to read a review of that package.