Monday, February 5, 2018


When I was writing up my favorite records of the year, I was still undecided on the latest from Squeeze. Since then, I have seen "The Knowledge" pop up on a few other "Best of 2017" lists, so I thought I'd go back to the record and give it another ride. I've listened to it twice in the last week and while there are songs that I truly love, like last week's Song Of The Day, "Patchouli" and "Please Be Upstanding," for starters, I realize what is giving me a hard time. It doesn't sound like Squeeze, or at least the Squeeze that has been a favorite band of mine from their debut in 1977.

Difford and Tilbrook's vocals, with their patented high/low octave lead is still there, and that is an essential part of Squeeze's sound, but like the last record, "Cradle To The Grave," which I did finally grow to love, "The Knowledge" has a sheen to it, almost like a new facelift, with bigger production values, instrumentation that veers from the norm of Squeeze's classic records, as well as other vocalists being featured. None of this is a bad thing, especially when the songwriting is still as wonderful as ever. It just feels like I am listening to another band altogether that just happens to employ Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.

This reminded me of when I first heard Tom Waits' "Swordfishtrombones." Initially, it was painful. What happened to that piano playing balladeer from "Closing Time?" In less than ten years, Waits had almost completely reinvented himself. The songs were still heartbreaking, only now, instead of being sung, they were being smashed in my face with a rake. It took a few more records, first "Rain Dogs," which eased up just slightly with the bullhorn/sandpaper/calliope instrumentation, and then "Frank's Wild Years," which piled it on heavy. But, I was won over.

Are there other artists whose transformation from their debut has been so dramatic? I'll admit, the difference between Squeeze's first and last record isn't quite as shocking as the difference between Waits' first and most recent, but I still don't hear much of "Argybargy" on "The Knowledge."


Shriner said...

XTC jumps out. I don't hear the quirky punk sound in the first album very much after (and some of that was due to Barry Andrews leaving the band...)

The Replacements from "Sorry Ma,..." sound nothing like The Replacements on "All Shook Down"

Alice Cooper Group's first two albums are pretty much unlistenable to me (and I'm a BIG FAN) and everything changed with Bob Ezrin coming on board.

I wouldn't say Zappa "transformed", but there's a huge difference between the first Mother's album and what came (many many) albums later. Classical composer Zappa? Who would have guessed?

Sal Nunziato said...

The Replacements on All Shook Down are Westerberg, John Cale and a dozen hired hands.

But Alice Cooper is a great example if only for those two records. I used to think they were unlistenable until I listened with different ears. Same guys but with a different mission statement. Those records work for me now as garage rock records with a touch of psychedelia. This is my point about Squeeze. They are playing different music now.

Dr Wu said...

Talk Talk. The difference between those early albums vs. ‘The Colour of Spring’ and on - especially ‘Spirit of Eden’. Essentially two different bands.

kevin m said...

I agree with Dr W about Talk Talk.

And while this may not be exactly pertaining to Sal's query but how about Genesis with Peter Gabriel and then without?

Anonymous said...

John Martyn might be an example of what you're talking about. The songs didn't change that much in the 80's, but he radically shifted his instrumentation and arrangements to a something close to jazz fusion. If it was just for one album, I would put it down to a producer's decision but it continued on all subsequent albums, so I'd have to conclude he was happy with that direction. It certainly seemed to resurrect his career.

It could be argued that any band or artist that has been around awhile will inevitably lose a little of what was distinctive about them at the start. I've been on a Strawbs kick lately, and it's amazing to me that they seem immune to it, other than a short period in the late 70's. Last year's "Ferryman's Daughter" sounds like it could have come out right after "From the Witchwood" or "Ghosts."

Sal Nunziato said...

How about Genesis with Gabriel versus Genesis without Steve Hackett?

I think both A Trick Of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering are excellent and in keeping with what began with Trespass. But it was And Then There Were Three where the songs started to get shorter and more pop oriented.

mauijim said...

Excellent example without Steve. What about Yes when Trevor Horn comes aboard for 90125? Not that I didn’t like the change but it was such a significant one.

Bill said...

I think Nick Lowe might qualify here too. His earlier, "funnier" albums sure sound a lot different than his mature later ones. Same voice, but a much different perspective and sound.

kevin m said...

I'll add one more; The Velvet Underground. The shift from their debut album w/ Nico to Loaded is substantial.

Dave said...

Fleet wood. Mac survived several iterations.

Jonathan Richman. His sound has certainly changed but his POV, not so much.

Dave F

Honest Ed said...

Costello. From My Aim Is True to The Juliet Papers in 15 years? Then halfway back again?

buzzbabyjesus said...

It sounds like "a major label debut" circa 1994.