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    Album review | pop

    Squeeze, ‘Cradle to the Grave’

    Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook formed Squeeze some 41 years ago, and over the years they’ve crafted innumerable pop gems: “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” “Up the Junction,” “Hourglass,” and more. Their first album of new material since 1998 finds them firing on all cylinders: Difford’s lyrics remain both heartbreaking and sardonic, while Tilbrook gleefully turns hooks on their ear. As the title might imply, the idea of aging hangs over the record, although Difford’s light touch makes its ruminations float where less talented lyricists might stumble. The only misstep is the use of extra backing singers on certain tracks. The interplay between Difford’s growl and Tilbrook’s lilt is a large part of what makes Squeeze’s songs so singular; other vocalists make tracks like “Open” sound a bit cluttered. But the pop songcraft the pair have honed over four-plus decades rings out clearly on the string-accented “Sunny” and the rollicking “Honeytrap,” and it’s still a joy to hear it used in new ways.

    MAURA JOHNSTON

    ESSENTIAL “Honeytrap”

    Difford and Tilbrook play the Wilbur Theatre on Dec. 10.

    Maura Johnston can be reached at maura@maura.com.