April 30th, 2012 5:45am
The Record Jumps On A Scratch
Squeeze @ Roseland Ballroom 4/28/2012
Take Me I’m Yours / If I Didn’t Love You / In Quintessence / Revue / Model / The Knack / Who’s That? / Is That Love? / Points of View / Melody Motel / Heaven / Bang Bang / Cool for Cats / Up the Junction / Another Nail In My Heart / Goodbye Girl / Annie Get Your Gun / Hourglass / Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) // Slap and Tickle / Tempted / Black Coffee In Bed
I’ve been a Squeeze fan for many years now – I didn’t investigate the catalog until my early 20s, but “Pulling Mussels” and “Tempted” were two of my favorite radio songs as a kid – but this was my first time seeing them in concert. It was worth the wait! The current version of the band is comprised of very talented veterans, but the performance wasn’t blandly tight and overly professional. This was especially notable during “Tempted,” a song they have been obligated to play at every gig for over 30 years – there was a lot of swing in the performance, and Glenn Tillbrook in particular seemed absolutely thrilled to be singing the song. Everyone just seemed very present and fully engaged, which was very inspiring given that they’ve been doing greatest hits shows focused on their 1978-1982 heyday for quite a while now.
It was very interesting for me to observe the distinct Chris Difford/Glenn Tilbrook dynamic in person. Their body language and personalities match their voices – Difford is as reserved and droll as his icy monotone would suggest, and Tilbrook is as outgoing and cheerful as his singing voice is bright and amiable. The band’s signature trick is to add dimension to their songs by having them both sing the same part simultaneously, with Difford’s more sinister tone contrasting with Tilbrook’s conventionally appealing and broadly expressive vocal. Difford writes all the lyrics, which adds another layer to it – Glenn fills in all the emotion and soul, but the man who actually penned the words and has a closer connection to the themes comes off distant and aloof. (Funny enough, this closely mirrors the Tricky/Martina Topley-Bird dynamic, but without the extreme sexual tension.)
“If I Didn’t Love You,” one of my top favorites, is a great example of this approach to songwriting and vocal harmony. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2007:
The full line is “If I didn’t love you, I’d hate you,” and the more I hear this song, the more I realize that ultimately the singer is erring on the side of the latter. The woman being addressed is a total cipher — an object, an objective, a source of unending sexual frustration. He fumbles through these forced, cliched romantic scenarios — all of which seem distinctly early 80s to me; I’ve always imagined this being played out by Sam Malone and Diane Chambers — but for a song about trying to get laid, it seems rather short on lust. Glenn Tilbrook normally sounds warm and friendly, but here he’s chilly and aloof, especially when he stutters like a broken robot on the hook.
Buy Live at the Fillmore from Squeeze.