Monday, November 11, 2013

Squeeze -- The Velvet Underground -- Review

Squeeze (1973)
Rating: 9
"Did I make you happy? Did I make you cry?"
Best Song: Little Jack
Worst Song: Dopey Joe

       After the commercial failure of Loaded, Lou, Sterling, and Maureen Tucker all left the band, leaving poor Doug Yule as the band's only remaining member. Not about to give up his last chance at commercial success, Yule got together with Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice and recorded a series of songs consisting of nothing more than Doug's voice, whatever instrument Doug was playing at the time, and Paice's drums. A saxophonist and some female vocalists were eventually brought in as an attempt to expand the sound, but for all intents and purposes, Squeeze is nothing more than a Doug Yule solo album. He sings lead, he sings harmony with himself (even attempting to pull off a decent Lou impersonation at times), he plays nearly every instrument, and he even produced the LP himself. The end result was a complete failure, both critically and commercially, leading most to pronounce the record one of the absolute worst of all time.
       So what does it actually sound like? Well, it's nothing more than 35 minutes of simple, two-to-three minute pop songs, just like the more flippant numbers found on Loaded. And I like it! I mean, it's hardly among the greatest albums ever, but it's not like Yule's musical talents suddenly disappeared. The best tracks here are easily the equal of "Who Loves the Sun", "Lonesome Cowboy Bill", and their ilk. Of course, those who think of Loaded as a terrible "sell-out" of an album would probably hate this, but me? Hey, I dig it. Fans of early-70s pop like Big Star should be all over this.
       Highlights include the ridiculously catchy "She'll Make You Cry", the Neil Diamond-aping "Caroline" (literally, the chorus features nothing but Yule shouting "Sweet Caroline!!"), and the countryish piano-pop of "Wordless". I'm also a fan of the opening "Little Jack", despite it being a hilariously obvious rip-off of the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" -- the bouncing rhythm, the "hoo hooo!" backing vocals, and even the verse melody are essentially lifted straight from it. But all these elements are repurposed in a surprisingly fun, entertaining way, and I can't help but enjoy the track. Of course, it's not all perfect. "Crash" is a completely forgettable throwaway, and the over-repetitive "Dopey Joe" is...well...I'm sure you see this joke coming, but yes, it's indeed very dopey. The closing "Louise" isn't bad per se, but it's nothing more than a rather unmemorable piano-pop song that just so happens to feature a bridge which sounds IDENTICAL to the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". It's perfectly listenable, though.
       Hell, the whole album's perfectly listenable! It's probably the worst of the five proper studio albums released under the band's name, but if you have any fondness for Loaded and you want more VU goodness along those same lines, definitely give this a listen.

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