Squeeze has rerecorded 14 of its hits and is asking fans to Spot the Difference between these note-for-note renderings and the originals. It’s an amusing gimmick — the biggest difference being the voices of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, which are craggier and raspier than they were 30 years ago. Though this material has been rereleased ad nauseam, Squeeze obsessives will eat it up.
Nearly 35 years ago, Squeeze released its first record. Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook were promptly compared to another spectacularly talented songwriting team. Musicians dream about being called the next John Lennon or Paul McCartney, but it might not be the best thing for a group’s career. Though the band had a string of hits that are clearly the pinnacle of pop classics, Squeeze didn’t really achieve the kind of prosperity and recognition it deserved.
The idea behind Squeeze's new album—14 re-recordings of classic Squeeze tracks—is that listeners should try to "spot the difference" between the original recordings (many of which are now over 30 years old) and these recreations. Rootsy-rockers Cracker did something similar a few years back as a screw you to their former record label, but instead of loose variations, Squeeze has reprised their hits here in faithful fashion. Sure, there is nothing new in these tracks, but it is surprising how well the songs stand up after so many years.
The very title of Spot the Difference suggests there are notable variations between this collection of re-recorded hits and the originals, but a quick listen reveals that Squeeze are taunting their audience to differentiate these painstaking re-creations from the originals. Apart from the fact that Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford are several years older -- a fact they take no pains to disguise -- these 15 re-recordings could pass in a pinch for the originals, the arrangements and instrumentation uncannily mimicking the classics. While this hardly supplants those originals, Spot the Difference is a fun spin for the devoted and a good advertisement for Squeeze’s reunion tour, proving they still have the knack to entertain.
A good 45 years into the singer-songwriter era of rock, when it’s not unusual for performers to have multi-decade careers, you rarely see an act go back into the studio to faithfully re-record old material as if nothing has changed since the first release. Sure, they offer up new versions – acoustic, live, orchestral, whatever – from time to time, but slavish recreation is seen as a crass gimmick, a throwback to rock’s early days when itinerant singles artists tried to pawn off “greatest hits” albums without having access to their original recordings. But Squeeze, the British New Wave-originated pop band whose nucleus is the gifted singer-songwriters Chris Difford (lyricist) and Glenn Tilbrook (melodies), has always had a devilishly offbeat sense of humor – after all, they named themselves after the totally extraneous Velvet Underground album released after Lou Reed departed.