SQUEEZE – Argybargy (1980)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Jeremiah Methven

“They do it down on Camber Sands, They do it at Waikiki” is the lyrical cold open of the first song on this album and make no mistake, the song is truly about doin’ it. In fact, I suspect most of the album is about doin’ it but this has somehow been cleverly obfuscated in clever lyrical detail or some exotic 80s British slang.
Anyway, Argybargy, Squeeze’s third studio offering, is perhaps not quite as silly as the title and cover art would imply but it is definitely every bit as fun. It also feels like a solid album through and through with a some nice variety between the songs and very dependable production.
Most of the songs on here are some very well crafted 3-4 minute pop songs with an energetic pulse and a nice buildup. The aforementioned opening track, for instance, delivers its title “Pulling mussels from a shell” as a punch after painting a nice lyrical and sonic contrast between people lazing about and reading Harold Robbins’ paperbacks on the sands of some English holiday resort and his epic William Tell-like experiences “behind the chalet”. And there is indeed a lot to appreciate in the way of lyrical details on this album (my favourite being the packed sequence of “From the Isle of Dogs // To the Egyptian sands // Where the Arabs chew on dates”), however some of these are easy to miss because they are not given enough space to breathe in the more energetic songs.
There is a nice variety of themes for the lyrics, as well – “Misadventure” is possibly about smuggling substances through airport customs, “I Think I’m Go Go” is about the hectic experience of touring (although I am a bit wary of the list-like nature of the lyrics that usually signifies someone is about to brag about how good / bad they are having it), “Vicky Verky” is about teenage pregnancy and “There at the Top” is apparently about an independent modern careerist woman.
Of course, lyrics are not what you would come to Argybargy for, it is the great melodies and hooks, the tight rhythms and the tasty production, which builds each song up nicely. There is something to be said of the way the layering of instruments keeps the variety in the post-chorus of “Separate Beds” or the way the cold and almost menacing synths and martial drums build the atmosphere in “Here Comes That Feeling”.
The only filler tracks I managed to detect are “Farfisa Beat” – you can’t expect too much from a song that begins with “Everybody’s dancing to the Farfisa beat” and proceeds with interjections like “flash flash” and “wow wow” – and the boogie-woogie of “Wrong Side of the Moon”. Both are enjoyable enough, however, even if they are not always up to the standard of everything else on this record, so they get a pass.
In conclusion, I would say that Argybargy is a solid and charming pop record and it is probably its solidness in pop hooks, rocking, production, and consistency that makes it so enjoyable, accessible and also recommendable.