& Co. are back – sort of – and revisiting the tunes that made us fall in
love with the band.
BY DAVE STEINFELD
Some bands had more hits (The Cars, The Police) and others
were more groundbreaking musically (Talking Heads, The Clash), but it’s hard to
think of any band from the New Wave era as beloved as Squeeze. Chris Difford,
Glenn Tilbrook and their mates turned out five classic albums between 1977 and
1982, broke up, then reunited several years later and issued another seven
studio discs before calling it quits again in 1999.
Now Squeeze is back – sort of. Difford and Tilbrook have
been touring the U.S. this summer with longtime Squeeze bassist John Bentley as
well as drummer Simon Hanson and keyboardist Stephen Large, both of Tilbrook’s
backing band, The Fluffers. More significantly, they released an album in
August called Spot the Difference.
It’s so titled because what they’ve done here is to re-record 14 of their most
popular songs, being painstakingly faithful to the first versions. For the most
part, it works. Favorites like “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell),” “Tempted,”
“Another Nail in My Heart,” “Cool for Cats” and “Black Coffee in Bed”-plus the
later smash “Hourglass”-do indeed sound very similar to the originals. But this
raises the obvious question of why Squeeze chose to do re-recordings when
several greatest-hits collections by the band already exist and when fans would
love some new music.
“The basic [reason] was not a romantic one,” admits the ridiculously
personable Tilbrook. “We tried [to] regain control over some portion of our
lives that we don’t have any control over. We’ve been trying to negotiate with
Universal to take control of our back catalog. They’re not interested in doing
anything with it but they’re not keen on having us have it either. So it’s
[been] a horrible stalemate.”
Difford adds, “It started when I [was] in a hotel in Boston
and I turned on the TV and there was an advert for Heineken and ‘Tempted’ was
being played and I knew nothing about it. No one had told me that it was gonna
happen… I called my lawyer and spoke to various people [and found that] because
we signed away our rights years ago, they don’t have to tell us… So we decided to re-record it, and really, it’s
been Glenn’s baby. He spent many days crafting it and it sounds absolutely
Difford and Tilbrook have had an up-and-down relationship
throughout the years and have drastically different personalities and
lifestyles. But something interesting happened while they were revisiting their
old hits: they decided that they may want to reconvene Squeeze after all.
Tilbrook says, “I’m loving Spot the
Difference but it’s not a new record. It serves the band well, but I wanna
be creative. And I’d love to do that with Squeeze.” For his part, Difford
notes, “It’s been 12 years since we’ve written with each other, so there’s a
lot of newness to be had. I’m excited about the prospect of writing again with
Squeeze. It’ll happen, I’m just not sure it’ll happen this year… At the moment,
our lives are involved in the recreation of our history, if you like.”
In the meantime, Squeeze isn’t the only thing keeping the
pair busy. Difford recently completed his third solo album, Cashmere If You Can, and is currently
releasing it song by song through the Saturday Morning Music Club website
[www.smmcmedia.com]. Tilbrook, meanwhile, is recording his fourth solo effort
with members of the veteran British R&B band Nine Below Zero. In addition,
he will be climbing to Mount Fuji in August to raise money for the Love Hope
Strength Foundation, a cancer charity started by Mike Peters of The Alarm.
Until the arrival of new Squeeze music, fans can content
themselves with Difford and Tilbrook’s solo albums (all of which are worth a
listen) and now with Spot the Difference.
One difference fans will notice on
the disc is that it’s Tilbrook singing “Loving You Tonight” this time around – not
keyboardist Paul Carrack. He explains, “There is a [new] version with Paul
singing, but Paul’s gonna release that himself. So we did two versions. I really
love that song and we’re doing it live now, so [I thought] it would be quite
interesting to have a go at it.” Mission accomplished.