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the latest pearl on the string

Some Fantastic Place (A&M)
Squeeze

In 1987, after disbanding briefly in the mid-'80s, Squeeze began a return to form with Babylon and On, a renaissance that continued with Frank in 1989 and two years later on Play. That bi-annual creative burst ignites again on Some Fantastic Place, a record brimming with Chris Difford's keen wordplay and Glenn Tilbrook's rampant melodicism. An added bonus is the return of keyboardist/singer Paul Carrack, last seen with the band on their classic East Side Story.

What Difford and Tilbrook do best is take tiny (often painful, or hilarious, or both) moments from real life and dip them in sweet pop coating, concealing the bite lurking just below the surface. The eleven songs collected here show no loss of artistic momentum.

The record leaps from the starting gate with the tightly-wound "Everything in the World," bristling with hooks, energized by Carrack's Hammond organ and sprinkled with small references to the band's biggest American hit, "Black Coffee in Bed."

The title track is a study in classic pop form, its undiluted melody settling in among Carrack's piano/organ work, Tilbrook's surging electric guitar and a host of heavenly harmonies. The band gallops away from a wrecked relationship in the lively, lovely "Third Rail," then locks into a sweet groove with Carrack behind the microphone for the sublime soul of "Loving You Tonight," the album's highlight.

"It's Over" catches Squeeze playing out one of life's little dramas, trying to convince a loved one that a meeting with an old flame is nothing to worry about. By the end of the song, you're wondering who the singer is really trying to persuade, his lover or himself. The band's nasty sense of humor gets free rein in the hilarious "Cold Shoulder," set (naturally) against a sad, subdued melody, and again on the inscrutable "Talk to Him."

The only humor to be found in the gentle ballad "Jolly Comes Home" is in the irony of its title; the song itself is an unsettling portrait of a woman frozen in a glacial marriage. "Images of Loving" calls to mind all those Lennon-McCartney comparisons, sounding like some manic missing link between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.

Bass player Keith Wilkerson proves an able lead singer on the somber, reggae-tinged "True Colors (The Storm)." The record closes with the lazy, lighthearted "Pinocchio," a tender finale for an album of pop songcraft caught at its peak.

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