Well, not quite
pandemonium, but for the most part a rousing reminder that Glen Tilbrook
still has one of the most engaging voices in pop music. And despite missing partner and lyricist Chris
Difford’s yang to his yin, Tilbrook acquits himself nicely with these Fluffers.
Pandemonium Ensues starts out with a bang – the Cajun throb of “Best of Times” is an irresistible
Squeeze-like opener, and Stephen Large’s bouncy keyboards propel “Through the
Net” atop an ocean of background vocals straight from the Jellyfish playbook.
But right when he should be sealing the deal, there’s a speed bump. I wish he
hadn’t given bassist Lucy Shaw a lead vocal, especially on the third track of
the album. She’s not a bad singer, but if “Product” was an experiment in songwriting
bandwidth, it fails; it’s as jarring as when the wrong platter dropped in the
jukebox. At least it’s not the bad aftertaste of closing track “Too Close To the
Sun”, where Johnny Depp’s oddball vocal gives Joaquin Phoenix a run for his
While the first two tracks are single-worthy, most of the
rest fall into the “catch and release” category. They’re well-played songs, decent
arrangements, pleasant to the ear, but none will send you scurrying for the
replay button. “Relentless Pursuit” is a great melody with stellar Beach Boy
background vocals but sandbagged by clichéd lyrics and buried in an ’80s gauze
so thick you can almost imagine the cheesy MTV video. “Slaughtered Artist” and
“Beachland Ballroom” (apparently Cleveland
does rock) give him a chance to flash
some guitar and let the band cut loose over some lighthearted lyrics. “Interest
and Love” and especially “Melancholy Emotion” will conjure up the old days, but
ironically sound more like Paul Carrack songs than tracks from the
Difford/Tilbrook canon. Likewise “She Makes Me” sounds like something written
after one too many listens of Sgt.
For Tilbrook and Squeeze fans, certainly enough to make you
happy; plus past experience proves he’ll turn many of these on their ear in
concert. It won’t sound the call for new fans, but maybe at this stage of the
game that doesn’t really matter.
Standout Tracks: “Best of Times,” “Still,” “Through the Net” BILL HOLMES