For Squeeze, its music, not musicians

December 01, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Because there's a different lineup every time Squeeze heads out on tour, some people might think the band is in constant state of flux.

But Glenn Tilbrook sees the situation a little differently. To him, what truly defines Squeeze are the songs he and Chris Difford have written together over the past two decades. Consequently, all those personnel changes really are is little more than "an opportunity to play with different people under the umbrella of Squeeze.

"Squeeze," he adds, "is a sort of collective body of people that gather around Chris and my songs. What I like about the group is that there is a certain distinct character and personality that emerges from the songs."

That's not to say the individual players don't affect the sound. For instance, the current lineup, -- the one included on the band's 12th and latest album, "Some Fantastic Place" -- finds Elvis Costello sideman Pete Thomas on drums instead of longtime Squeeze stickman Gilson Lavis. And though the switch didn't change the way Difford and Tilbrook wrote their songs, it definitely affected the way those 6l songs sounded in the studio.

"There is a very different rhythmical approach," says Tilbrook, over the phone from a Toronto hotel room. "Pete is a song-orientated drummer. He listens to the song and decides what's needed from him -- which is great for us, as we're also song-orientated.

"Of course, he spent 12 years with someone else who's song-orientated as well, so he's had plenty of practice."

Still, what made recording "Some Fantastic Place" a pleasure for Tilbrook wasn't the new drummer, but the studio the band built for itself.

"It's not a big studio," he says. "It's a nice little room. There's room for the drums. There's a control room where whoever's playing and not singing can go, and then there's another room. We can all see each other and sit down and work out stuff.

"It worked just as I hoped it would. We had -- excuse the usage -- a really good vibe in there."

It shows, too. Listen to the album, and it's hard not to notice how well the quintet -- which, in addition to Difford, Tilbrook and Thomas includes bassist Keith Wilkinson and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Carrack -- works together. Whether the playing is brash and sassy, as it is on the soul-inflected "Loving You Tonight," or quietly intense, as on "Jolly Comes Home," there's something about the band's inner chemistry that makes these new songs seem wonderfully vital.

As such, it's easy to think of "Some Fantastic Place" as the band's best album in ages. Yet as much as Tilbrook hopes that fans will call out for the new songs when Squeeze plays live, he refuses to flog the new album at the expense of the band's back catalog.

"If I go and see some acts that I like, that have been around for a long time, I am personally disappointed if they don't represent things about them that I want to see," he says.

"It's the same with us. We have a long career stretching behind us, and obviously, the stuff that has really sold, like the 'Singles -- 45's and Under' album, is going to be well represented in our show."

Precisely how they're represented varies from night to night, though. "We've been doing different shows every night, because we can't settle down on exactly what we want to play," Tilbrook explains. "That's part of the trouble of having a huge back catalog. There are things that you really don't like leaving out."

But doesn't it get tiresome playing the same songs over and over again, year after year?

Not at all, says Tilbrook. "One of the things I really like about different lineups is that of the songs we have now, there are very few that are in flexible. To me, it's really fun to respond to an individual musician, rather than say, 'This is how it goes. Play it like that, please.'

"For instance, with Paul [Carrack] in the band at the moment, we've been doing 'Melody Motel' from the 'Frank' album that we had out four years ago. That's a song that we could never, with the other lineup, do live. It never swung, never worked live. Now we've got a better version live than the record, I think."

Squeeze

When: Thursday at 8 p.m.

Where: Senator Theatre, 5904 York Road

Tickets: $25 reserved

Call: (410) 435-9892 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets

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