OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (7/7)
Another enthusiastic review with actual critique. I’m getting better, ain’t I? It’s in the same vein as the Revolver review, IE it’s less of a critique and more of a gushing platform, but I find it completely enjoyable on its own terms…kind of like the album itself.
I hope this tides you over, because my speakers are broken. No music review tomorrow, sorry.
Here it is, in all its hardness:
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money
Money can’t buy me love
I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you’ll love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money
Money can’t buy me love
-Can’t Buy Me Love
Their first masterpiece. Yup. Not Revolver, Rubber Soul or even Help!, this thirty minute Fab Four album. I haven’t seen a lot of people who dislike this album (and why WOULD you dislike this album unless you’re trying to hurt my feelings?) but I don’t see enough people who label it as anything other than “a really great pop album.” The implication here is that all pop is somehow automatically “inferior” to the “true rock” The Beatles would pioneer, which is not only unfair to pop in general, but also The Beatles. Their biggest contribution to not only the music world but the world in general was breaking down the barrier between “high” and “low” music (and, by extension, high and low art in general). This is why The Beatles are so great: they never saw their format as a restriction. As someone who believes there are no bad genres, only bad output, this is a big part of the reason why The Beatles are so important to me.
Okay, that’s touching and all, but what about the album itself? Well, on its own terms, it’s pretty much perfect. It doesn’t actually get straight fives in the categorical ratings, but it still gets (spoilers) a 10/10, because as a pure pop album, it deserves it.
Oh yeah, and one more thing before we get into the song-by-song breakdown: this is the first Beatles album to feature nothing but Lennon-McCartney originals, but you probably already knew that. So how about this bombshell: John penned TEN of the thirteen songs! I feel like I was a bit too harsh to John on Please Please Me, because it really didn’t take that long for him to come into his own. I’m torn between whether John or Paul is technically the better writer, but I personally prefer Paul because we’re both saccharine-feeling-type guys.
So pull out your impossible-to-play power chords! The legendary title track is a well-deserved classic. John is now completely comfortable in his role as a songwriter, has a lot of fun with the vocals, and the melody…ho boy, that melody. It would be amazing enough without the top-notch playing ability. The next song, “I Should Have Known Better”, has pretty much all the same strengths, plus a fun harmonica.
Up next is the ballad “If I Fell.” A surprisingly mature and extremely heartwarming piece of Lennon writing, with another great melody. Of course, there’s not a bad melody on this album, so that’s not really saying much. And that’s the thing about this album: it’s chock-full of excellent songs, but they’re mostly excellent for the same or similar reasons, which makes them a bit hard to write about. I can sure as heck try, though.
The next song is one of three on the album I wouldn’t label as great, “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You.” Sung by George and written by John, it’s a bit of a throwaway. It’s got a melody that’s good but not great and doesn’t feel all that bubbly or satisfying when compared to most of the material here.
Thankfully, this is almost immediately made up for by “And I Love Her.” It’s one of three Paul songs on the album, another ballad, and totally gorgeous. Like John, Paul has also exploited his niche, bringing genuinely romantic lyrics and an honest, tender vocal performance to make my favorite song on the album. And the melody is pretty great too I guess.
A nice change of pace comes with “Tell Me Why”, which feels like the proto “Help!”, I.E. an upbeat song about a distressing situation. It’s a nice dose of ironic fun, but Paul’s “Can’t Buy Me Love” is where it’s REALLY at. I can’t think of a single unmemorable note in the entire song. Paul’s writing and singing are still stop notch. How could you NOT flip to the next side with this closer?
Side two opens with “Any Time At All”, which is nothing new for the Beatles but taken to new heights of sincere writing and hookalicious melodies. My favorite Beatles song in this category is “From Me To You”, but this is a close second. “I’ll Cry Instead” is in the same vein as “Tell Me Why”, with pretty much all the same strengths, and even more fun energy.
Paul’s last song is the impeccable “Things We Said Today.” Nestled comfortably between “And I Love Her” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” in terms of style, it’s a mid-tempo ballad that manages to be both fun and pretty. For only contributing three songs, Paul shows a rainbow of music on this album. It was his showing here that cemented him my favorite Beatle.
“When I Get Home” is a bit hammy writing wise, but so are the vocals, and those are great. The melody is good but not stellar, putting it in the same category as “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.” But seeing as how this is A Hard Day’s Night, even the worst songs are totally enjoyable to listen to. Speaking of which, “You Can’t Do That” is probably the weakest song on the album, with some really clumsy writing, but the melody is phenomenal.
The album ends on a high note with “I’ll Be Back,” where John reaches Paul-levels of Paul-ness. I don’t know what that means, but it sure is lovely. And catchy. And heartwarming. Sooo…the entire album pretty much.
And that’s the Beatles throwing out more hooks then had previously existed in the history of music. If this review seems a bit skimpy on description and details (which it is), it’s because of the albums only flaw: it’s a bit samey. Of course, it’s only samey because it gets practically everything right over and over again, but samey is samey. Regardless, you should ABSOLUTELY own this album. The excellence of the hooks, vocals, lyrics and general sense of light-as-air fun are practically nonstop from beginning to end.
Listenability: 5/5 I hope I don’t need to explain this one.
Themes: 4.5/5 .5 points off for still being all about love, but the shades and nuances are now front and center!
Lyricism: 4.5/5 .5 points off for some messiness and occasional clichés. The emotions are sincere and the wit hard to resist.
Diversity: 3/5 Fast paced pop rockers, soft ballads, mid-tempo ballads, mid-tempo pop…and that’s kind of it. Not a bad selection, but still a relatively small one. A lot of moods, not a lot of sounds.
Resonance: 5/5 If you aren’t giddy and lovey-dovey by the time this album is done, we’ll probably just never understand each other.
FINAL RATING: 10/10 Screw “pop masterpiece”, it’s just a masterpiece.
Recommended Listening: (even though this album is only half an hour long and you should just listen to the whole thing) And I Love Her, Things We Said Today, Can’t Buy Me Love, I’ll Be Back, Any Time At All, A Hard Day’s Night, If I Fell, I Should Have Known Better