herald

Friday 17 August 2018

axis

Back in the early '80s, when Squeeze were on a brief hiatus and its songwriters were attempting to crack America as a duo, one over-enthusiastic US scribe described Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook as 'the new Lennon and McCartney'. Despite the fact that only one of their albums had cracked the Top 40 (the underwhelming Sweets From A Stranger) and they'd never had even a whiff of a hit single, one could actually see why such hyperbole might be directed their way.

The great British songwriting partnerships -- think Morrissey/Marr, Jagger/Richards and, but of course, Lennon/McCartney -- have always had a combination of sweet and bitter and Difford and Tilbrook were no exception. However, the combination of the former's wry lyrics and the latter's wonderful way with a melody, not to mention the fact that he also has a beautiful, high-register singing voice actually suggests another classic English songwriter: namely, Ray Davies.

With a keen eye for the minutiae and trivia of everyday life, Difford's gifts recall those of The Kinks' writer-in-chief and the band weren't going to spurn the opportunity which presented itself when the punk explosion allowed all sorts of mavericks through the doors in 1977. Squeeze had already been a going concern on the London pub circuit for four years when A&M signed the Deptford quintet.

Squeeze's impeccable initial run of singles included the Eastern-influenced Take Me, I'm Yours, the wideboy pop lark of Cool For Cats, a plaintive story of a one-night-stand in Goodbye Girl and the kitchen sink mini-movie Up The Junction.

And then they went and got better.

Even as keyboard player Jools Holland was getting ready to pack his bags, the Difford/Tilbrook axis was delivering Another Nail in My Heart, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell), Is That Love along with the brilliant soul ballad Tempted and a bona fide country classic in Labelled With Love.

The pair did have their ups and downs over the years, with Difford leaving for a period, but even though Tilbrook in solo mode makes for a supremely entertaining night out, when he's with his long-term cohort in Squeeze the magic is there for all to see.

>GEORGE BYRNE

Squeeze play Vicar Street on Sunday night

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