'Spot the Difference' With that title, Squeeze offered an invitation, a challenge, the sound of a gauntlet being thrown down. Go on, they were saying, can you tell it's not Jools on the piano or Elvis Costello on backing vocals? Can you?
Squeeze's decision to claw back the rights of their best known songs by recreating virtually identical versions, was greeted with some scepticism when it was first released.
But it's a well travelled road, there are those who really want to regain control of their earlier work (most recently and most famously Taylor Swift), those updating their sound and airbrushing out former colleagues (Kraftwerk), those who just can't leave their history alone (Kate Bush), those who really do improve on the original (The Wedding Present), those who can add age and wisdom (exclusively Joni Mitchell) and those who want to make an atrocity even worse (exclusively The Police). Not to mention the perverse (Momus), the creatively bankrupt (Peter Gabriel), the piss-inducingly awful (Duran Duran) and the down right greedy (Frank Sinatra).
It's now over a decade since 'Spot the Difference' first arrived and the only thing that genuinely irks is the lack of recognition that the songwriting duo of Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook have been given. Theirs is a tale of several rises and falls. And who knows whereabouts on the rollercoaster they are now. At one point American critics believed they'd found the new Lennon and McCartney, the next they were on Pebble Mill at One punting another song that would soon sink into oblivion.
Chris Difford once described their hit single 'Up the Junction' as his attempt at writing a 'Play for Today' as a song. Its a fitting analogy for their finest moments here. You're eavesdropping on first person narratives by frequently flawed narrators on 'Another Nail in My Heart' and 'Goodbye Girl'. Then there's the entire film in four minutes of 'Labelled with Love' and the heartfelt grief of 'Some Fantastic Place', that can still bring tears.
So, can I tell that it's not Jools Holland boogywoogying away on those early hits? Not really. Or that Elvis Costello no longer appears on 'Tempted' and 'Black Coffee in Bed' (dueting with the pre fame Paul Young)? Yes to that last one, but it's a minor quibble.
When you purchase 'Spot the Difference' though, don't just play the compare and contrast game, just reacquaint yourselves with a fabulous band that have some remarkable songs. The reappraisal of Squeeze is long overdue.
Main Photo: Chris Difford by Chris Difford's daughter (we got this from Wikipedia)