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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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Squeeze's fourth studio album was planned to be their most ambitious, a double album with each side of the vinyl LP produced by a different person. The four people were Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and Paul McCartney. What eventually happened was a single album, mostly produced by Elvis Costello and Roger Bechirian, with one song, the cheerful album opener "In Quintessence" produced by Dave Edmunds. In retrospect, "East Side Story" was probably a much better finished product than the double album originally planned, as the single disc just about has enough top-notch material to ensure this is an almost entirely brilliant album. Had they stretched it out, perhaps it would be regarded as less of a success than it was. "East Side Story" is further notable for being their first album without Jools Holland and, instead, had Paul Carrack on keyboards and, famously, on vocals for the magnificent "Tempted".

The major highlights of "East Side Story" are the superb singles. "Tempted" is one of the finest songs Difford and Tilbrook have ever written, four minutes of absolute genius where the protagonist gets used to his newly found option after becoming single. Everything about this song is perfect, Carrack's vocals, Elvis Costello's two line cameo, the gorgeous organ, bass line and the fantastic Chris Difford lyrics where he, as always, makes the ordinary extraordinary. "Is That Love" is a supremely catchy track where the romantic notion of love is cynically dissected. The line "My assets froze while yours have dropped" always raises a smile. "Labelled With Love", delivered like an plodding old country and western song, is the superb tale of the back-story behind an eccentric woman and the poor existence she is barely living. It's beautifully human.

It's not just about the singles, though. "In Quintessence" is full of Difford double entendres, "Piccadilly" is a cracking song with humorous lyrics focusing around a date, a curry and a bit of stealth sex with Mum sleeping next door. "Someone Else's Bell" is a depressing tale of a couple having meaningless affairs because of the sorry state of their own relationship, but it makes for a fine song. The classical leanings of "Vanity Fair" make this story of a woman with nothing to offer other than looks underline the sad tone of the subject matter and "Messed Around", which was released as a single in the USA, is a pleasant piece of gentle rockabilly and ends the album with a whimper rather than a bang. The majority of the album is really very good indeed, the only track which falls a little short is "F-Hole", where the dreary music lets it down a little. One of the songs from the Nick Lowe sessions, "Looking For A Love", is a bonus track on the edition of "East Side Story" I own and it's a great song, but it's also a cover of a 1962 single by The Valentinos (featuring a young Bobby Womack). The other bonus track, "The Axe Has Now Fallen" is a Difford/Tilbrook original, is absolutely excellent and should definitely have made it onto the album, in my opinion.

One of Glenn Tilbrook's major songwriting strengths is that his music seldom goes in the direction the listener expects it to. His unconventional melodies, chord changes and major/minor shifts make his musical compositions compelling and always interesting to a musical mind tired of formulaic songs. It does, however, mean that listening to Squeeze albums can be hard work sometimes and can often take a good few listens before all of the tracks can be fully appreciated and enjoyed. I have personally found this true of "East Side Story" and it has taken me a good half a dozen listens to really "get" all of the songs. It'd be difficult to say that this was their singularly greatest piece of work, because much of their early work is superb and very accessible, however this is certainly amongst the best albums of their career and I'd recommend this one highly for anybody wanting to carefully venture beyond owning just a greatest hits collection.
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on 6 December 2002
Lennon and McCartney, John and Taupin, Jagger and Richards... Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook follow in the long line of great English songwriting partnerships. Never was their craft so finely demonstrated than on their 1981 opus "East Side Story". Since 1978 they had released an album a year - the song quality improving each time. Before this was recorded they lost Jools Holland to a TV career but this led to a happy fringe benefit - the arrival of Paul Carrack. It is he who sings the lead on arguably their finest and certainly their most admired song "Tempted". But there is much more to enjoy besides this perfect pop nugget. "Picadilly" evokes the heady evenings around the West End of London including a taxi cab ride through Soho presumably heading back to their native Deptford, "Vanity Fair" contains some of the best lyrical rhymes Difford ever came up with (screw loose - pineapple juice) and "Is This Love" and huge hit "Labelled With Love" are no slouches either. The only (relatively minor) drawback is the presence of the faintly annoying "F-hole". The diamond in this bagful of gems is the brilliant "Woman's World". I am firmly of the opinion that there wasn't a better feminist pop song throughout the 80's.
Buy it and improve your world.
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on 7 March 2015
Great to be reunited with this album squeeze at their best
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on 8 January 2011
Had to point out the nonsense by the official review that states Carrack wrote Tempted - utter tosh!!!! You can actually hear Difford/Tilbrooks demo on Eccess Moderation - clearly not as good but most definately written by them. And F-Hole leads into Labelled with Love not Tempted!

That out of the way, In my opinion Squeeze wrote two very "complete" albums This one and "Play". Play was a really great album but released years later when they couldn't get arrested but well worth searching out. This one was released at their peak and contains the hits Tempted, Is That Love and Labelled with Love. This sums up the theme but this is no slushy love theme but a wonderful observation of the frailties of love both lost found and forbidden.

The great crime was this album was released with no lyric sheet as was the previous albums before it. This I cannot understand as the lyrics were fabulous if you could work them out -try keeping up with Piccadily!

Womans World is a real gem with its look at the drudgery faced by all mums that take the role of the housewife.

Vanity Fair -is a beautifuly arranged piece with just an orchestra - perhaps the sequel to She's leaving Home?!

Above all I love the tunes and am a big fan of Tilbrook and his ability to let Diffords words come to life is such a sympathetic and suitable way.

I have to say I miss the character of Jools Holland and the keys definately take a back seat compared to previous albums. Also the production is a little light i would have liked a bit more balls particualrly with the great drumming which is not high enough in the mix.

In summation a good solid album that really sounds like it is an album instead a collection of songs. I personally think Argybargy is the essense of Squeeze but this one is probably a more complete listening experience. Where's the deluxe version though? I would love to hear this remastered properly.
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on 7 December 2014
Great Elvis Costello production.
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on 29 March 2005
I was turned on by Cool For Cats as a young teenager, catching the very different sound, and the weird modern lyrics.(for early eighties Denmark, this sounded pretty advanced!!)
But if you're looking for a place to start, check out this record.
The smooth sound of Paul Carrack on "Tempted"'s worldclass!!!
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on 1 March 2010
The epithet "perfect pop" is often overused, but in this case it fits exactly.

Difford & Tilbrook brought us, in their fourth studio album, a record of such lyrical and musical accomplishment that it's difficult to see how it didn't spawn half a dozen top-ten singles, instead of the one it unbelievably only did manage.

Of the three singles contained, only one made any significant impact on the charts at all - the lovely, rolling, melodic "Labelled With Love". Stuffed with poignant, witty lyrics, teasing us with rhymes that don't arrive (you'd think that after using the word "mittens", followed by the word "cat", we were all set for the mention of "kittens", but no!), its country-ballad sound echoed earlier classics such as "Goodbye Girl" and "Up The Junction" in that it was simple enough and tuneful enough to hit exactly the right spot. But the other two were woefully overlooked by the public at the time: the superb rocking, up-beat foot-stomper "Is That Love?" hardly tickled the top-40; while the classic "Tempted", their best-known number in America, didn't even make it that far.

But this is a surprise in a record packed with numbers that most bands would kill to include in their own back-catalogue. Why on earth the beautiful "Woman's World" wasn't chosen as a single, for instance, I have no idea; and "Piccadilly" sounds just as fresh and bouncy now as it did then - it brings a huge smile to my face every time I even think about it. In fact, I'm going to be bold and make the claim that there wasn't one single song on "East Side Story" that wasn't brilliant. A couple of reviewers have criticised "F-Hole" for letting the side down, but while I didn't like it when I first bought the album (years ago), I find these days that it's actually quite interesting, hypnotic even, and fits with the whole idea of experimentation that the band were obviously exploring at the time.

My only criticism of this edition of "ESS" is that the bonus tracks don't add anything. They're not really on a par with the original playlist, and you'd want your extras to add "something extra" to the package. But this is hardly a reason not to love the album. In fact, I can't think of any reason not to love the album.

You'd be mad not to buy it.
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2008
'East Side Story' was a surprise success. Considered by some in 1981 as the best album of that year, albeit against less competition than usual, it ranks as the band's best album. Their moment appeared to have passed, their commercial peak having been 'Cool For Cats.' There had also been two personnel changes, but the important Difford/Tilbrook writing partnership was still intact. Squeeze had fitted neatly into the new wave atmosphere with their Beatle-influenced pop and streetwise Cockney Carry On lyrics. They were able to adapt because of a fashion for retro 1960s pop with a touch of soul, but mostly because they always had good quality songs.

On 'East Side Story' they retained their humorous and melodic elements, while widening the scope of their approach and putting more groove into their music. The revered 'Tempted,' for instance, is a more mature song, not instantly commercial, but one which crawls under your skin with its soulful plod and nerve-probing lyric. 'In Quintessence' sets off like Booker T & The MGs while 'Mess Around' ventures into rockabilly, another revived form of that era. Oddly, the first single and most instant, 'Is That Love,' failed to take the charts by the scruff, but the country ballad, 'Labelled With Love,' did. Elsewhere, the band experiment a little with songs like 'Heaven' and 'There's No Tomorrow,' with an approach reminiscent of XTC. Otherwise, the album is full of bright hooks, especially on 'Piccadilly' and 'Woman's World.' Even the bonuses are worthwhile, ending with the rousing 'Looking For A Love.' This is first class British pop.
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on 20 February 2008
Squeeze were the kings of the new wave when they released the eloquent 'Eastside Story'. They had already enjoyed a string of classic singles and had built up a sizeable following in both their native England and the more lucrative USA. Produced by Elvis Costello, and heavily featuring the keyboard and vocals skills of new recruit Paul Carrack, composers Difford and Tilbrook effortlessly delivered a collection that left the competition standing. In an early 80's dominated by synth bands, eye-liner and new romantics Squeeze built their reputation around erudite lyrics, Beatley melodies and a mastery of many genre's.
The singles still sound great - 'Is That Love', top 5 hit 'Labelled With Love' and the sublime 'Tempted' have lost none of their power and beauty. 'Woman's World' is the best song Ray Davies didn't write, 'Someone Else's Heart' features one of Difford's finest ever vocal performances and 'Vanity fair' is an orchestral and lyrical tour de force.
Even lesser tracks such as 'Someone Elses Bell' and the rockabilly pastiche of 'Messed Around' fizz with invention and energy.
Eastside story is a masterclass of intellegint pop/rock - one that Squeeze would struggle to equal until 1993's Some fantastic Place (also featuring Paul Carrack) - by which time, of course, the writing was on the wall.
With the recently reformed Squeeze hitting the road again in 2008, there has never been a better time to get re-aquainted with this, their true 80's classic.

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on 17 September 2000
Ignore the official reviewer's championing of their hits album. East Side Story is very special. Squeeze had managed to ditch their early pop bombast and sound confidently at ease on this disc. Difford and Tillbrook's songwriting moves to where it's firmest; suburbia. Tiny snapshots of English life, teenage tears, middle-aged angst, old ladies living on memories, fumbling sexual liasons and hard decisions; it's all here. Like country and western but from an objective eye and with strong beaty tunes to back it up. As British as a bus shelter on a wet afternoon but far more enjoyable.
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