Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Graham Parker - Squeezing Out Sparks (1979)

Passion is no ordinary word....


Released March 1979

Graham Parker was an old hand by early 1979, part of the new wave he had been inspiring since 1975, infuriatingly unable to out-sell artists upon whom his influence was clear in Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. This is still a bit of a cult album, a masterpiece of new wave energy, sneer, melody and cynical vitriol. Parker's anger about all sorts of things never gets in the way of his knack of finding a great new wave melody, though. The album is full of infectious hooks.


1. Discovering Japan
2. Local Girls
3. Nobody Hurts You
4. You Can't Be Too Strong
5. Passion Is No Ordinary Word
6. Saturday Nite Is Dead
7. Love Gets You Twisted
8. Protection
9. Waiting For The UFOs
10. Don't Get Excited
11. Mercury Poisoning
12. I Want You Back                                  

Discovering Japan is a very 1979, new wavey rocket open with, full of guitar riffs and sneery vocals. Local Girls is very Costello-ish in both its sound and Parker's brassed-off feelings towards girls who have no doubt rejected him. Parker was always annoyed about something or other. I have never been quite sure what. Just as Elvis Costello was always described as "ascerbic", then the same applied to Parker. On Nobody Hurts You he sounds just like Joe Jackson on Look Sharp album, both in delivery and lyrical attitude.

You Can't Be Too Strong has Parker railing about abortion more emotively than did The Sex Pistols on Bodies the previous year. Passion Is No Ordinary Word is a typical Parker powerful ballad with full on embittered vocals and a searing guitar solo. Saturday Nite Is Dead has Parker going a bit punky, something that was actually quite unusual, particularly now. He was doing stuff like this back in 1976. Love Gets You Twisted is another Joe Jackson type track. Is gets tiring constantly making these comparisons, but I just can't help it. As soon as I hear the song, I just think "Joe Jackson". Whose album influenced whom is a real chicken and egg conundrum.

Protection is a raw, rough-edged gritty, rock number. Waiting For The UFOs is also solid in its rockingness and it taps into the contemporary obsession with UFOs. The vocal is very Costello. Don't Get Excited is perfect piece of new wave riffery. The Rolling Stones could do this, it would suit them.  Parker's voice is even a bit like Jagger's in places on this.

Mercury Poisoning was a rant by Parker against his record company. Musically, it has a great horn backing. At least he had a contract. Quite why he went all Van Morrison only he knows. Maybe he had a point, I don't actually know, so maybe I should shut up. Finally, we get a surprising cover of The Jackson 5's I Want You Back which works, as it happens. Fair to play for Parker for covering this in a period when punks/new wavers would have turned their collective noses up. Overall this is a copper-bottomed new wave classic album. The true under-invoked spirit of 1979.