– the magazine that sets the record straight –

DOUG YULE: Squeeze

(Polydor UK) ***1/2

This oddity has been a firm favourite in the Fixed! office for quite a few months now. If you’re a regular reader you’ll most likely recognise Doug Yule as being part of late 60s US band the Velvet Underground, whose leader Lou Reed has recently been having huge success with his Transformer album.

From the cover artwork and a first cursory listen, it looks like Doug has decided to fly the flag of his former band. It’s not surprising that there is a sheen of later-period Velvets on this album since Doug’s playing is all over Loaded – their final album which came out in 1970. If you’re lucky enough to have picked up a copy of Loaded before it hit the cut-out bins, that’s Doug doing most of the lead guitar solos, piano, bass and backing vocals – even taking the main vocals on a few of the songs.

So if you liked Loaded you’ll most probably dig Squeeze. It’s like putting an old favourite jumper: the colour goes well with your new pair of velvet flares, the wool doesn’t itch and the collar’s a bit too tight but you’re still looking good. Some of the songs ape Lou Reed’s writing a little bit too much, but they seem to be the ones that you’d definitely call ‘album tracks’. You can’t blame Doug for being in a band with one of rock’s greatest songwriters and not pick up a few tips.

Opener “Little Jack” makes it clear that Doug likes his English powerpop, what with its “Pinball Wizard” intro, a 60s-inspired beat and some inviting country-rock vocals topped with that Loaded lead guitar tone. Wonderful! It’s no wonder that Doug has recently made London his home-base and has been gigging around with the likes of Brinsley Schwarz, Eggs Over Easy, and Help Yourself. Good ol’ The Band-inspired country pop is never too far away from the local ‘Pub Rock’ scene (see issue#2 of Fixed! for our overview of this exciting new scene – Ed.)

You can see why Paul McCartney has recently taken a shine to Doug with the next song “Crash” – it’s the first cousin of “Martha My Dear”, with its jovial piano, sweet melody and romance novel lyrics. There’s similarities between this album and another McCartney devotee – Emitt Rhodes – not so much insofar as the songs themselves but the recording process. Like Emitt’s first two albums, Doug Yule is pretty much a one-man band here on Squeeze with the exception of the drumming duties (filled by Deep Purple’s Ian Paice) and some uncredited saxophone and female backing vocals. He has talent in abundance.

Like the Rasberries, Badfinger and Big Star, Doug has one foot firmly in the ‘60s and the other in this decades glam-slash-boogie rock. “Caroline” is full of these great Beach Boys harmonies – when you hear them, it’s easy to think of them as ‘ Velvet Underground’ vocals but that’s because Doug did sing a lot of vocals on the last two Velvets albums. “Mean Old Man” is a tough rocker like something off the last two Flamin Groovies albums – something sleazy that even the Rolling Stones would be proud of.

“Dopey Joe” is another song in the early-70s Lou Reed vein but the general consensus here at Fixed! is that Doug Yule’s first solo album is a lot more inviting that Lou Reed’s first solo album (titled Lou Reed, released a year ago last April) which was also recorded here in London using a session drummer. Luckily for Doug, his drummer didn’t overdo the drum fills like Clem Cattini did on Lou’s album. He ruined it! Side one ends with “Wordless”, another song full of catchy hooks that features that unmistakable echo-y Velvets guitar danglin’ – so great to hear again!

Side two has the real picks of Squeeze. “She’ll Make You Cry” has H-I-T written all over it and it’s a brisk pop number which sounds like Crosby, Stills and Nash on teenage amphetamines competing for the girls with the Lovin’ Spoonful. Sure it’s a throwback to the last decade, but who wouldn’t want to feel that young again? If you’ve been listening to the radio lately you may have heard a re-mixed single (by none other than Dave Edmunds), which has been racing up the charts. The acoustic guitars have been pumped up and Edmunds has added his usual bag of stacked backing vocals. We predict it will be top 10 by the middle of Summer.

Love “Candy Says”, the Velvet Underground song that appeared on their third self-titled album? That’s Doug Yule singing on that one and no doubt you’ll like “Friends” as well. It’s an instant classic, a slow-burn cracker of a song. Doug has a beautiful voice when he sings in this slightly lower register and it’s possibly the album highlight – a haunting ballad with melancholic keyboards and flowing backing vocals. It shows that there’s more to Doug Yule than the rockin’ numbers – like the next two – “Send No Letter” and “Jack & Jane”, the last one definitely Lou Reed-by-numbers and the only one that may gain some criticism from the three or four VU fans lurking about.

The final song “Louise” is another album highlight with its Beatles-inspired piano riff and jaunty melody which then segues into a layered piano/organ section which, while not exactly of the progressive rock ilk, rivals anything released in 1973 that claims to be adventurous. Just when you think the song is about to finish, the one-man band of Doug Yule gives us the most gorgeous, atmospheric and vocal-laden finale. Absolutely stunning and a perfect way to end this album. Our layout guy here at Fixed! yelled out “Pop Art Rock!” after one of the many listens to Squeeze and I reckon he hit it on the head.

Like the Velvet Underground albums, Squeeze would have been on its way to the cut-out bins too if it wasn’t for some recent intervention by both one Paul McCartney and local heroes the Brinsleys. Doug has been asked to open up the Wings UK tour which starts this month and goes right into the middle of June, along with special guests Brinsley Schwarz. We predict a big future lies ahead for this mysterious one-time Velvet Doug Yule. No longer “who?” but “wow!”

– Tod Ersatz (Fixed! magazine, May 1973)