Chris Difford is a master storyteller, a role he’s grown into over the years as he’s slowly built up a wealth of autobiographical experience from which to the draw the same stories he and Glenn Tilbrook once had to invent.
Dressed as Tony Hancock on the album sleeve, the parallels are obvious and deserved: if Hancock had been a pop star, this is the music he would have made. Each and every song would make a perfect Half Hour episode script.
“She said I think it’s over, unless you clear the debt”, he sings on Come On Down, the opener to an album filled with tales of absent fathers, flabby middles, faded dreams and socks. As should be the case with lyrics as good as this, they’ve reproduced in a handy booklet that comes with the CD, each one tail-ended by a bit of background information on its influences and inspirations. It’s an intimate and touching addition that brings us closer to the heart of the music, inviting us in for tea and sympathy.
The songs Difford penned with Glenn Tilbrook for Squeeze, such as the sublime Labelled With Love, told you what it was like to be old, fat, lonely and washed up. They were filled with characters that hung on with nicotine-stained fingertips to lives that seemed all the more precious for their fragility.
Over the years, he has slowly grown into the music he has always made until he fits with it so smoothly, so well, that you’ll forget it might have seemed incongruous, a quarter of a century ago, to see men in their mid-20s dripping with a world-weariness far beyond their years.
Thirty years on from his roots in a somewhat leftfield new wave band named after the worst Velvet Underground album and produced by John Cale (who wasn’t guilty), Difford has turned out a collection of songs that bring him full circle. Irony laden lyrics about inheriting his mother’s tits and poetry darker than the tunes suggest suffuse The Last Temptation with an irresistible charm.
Passing perhaps the toughest test of all, at an album launch party so packed it’s impossible to move, the new work envelopes Squeeze classics including Up The Junction seamlessly. Come On Down, Battersea Boys, On My Own I’m Never Bored and the Party’s Over should all be able to hold their own on the 21st century radiowaves with an audience who probably won’t even notice they haven’t been around for years.
They’re as comfortable as the slippers you suspect the couple at the heart of Good Life are wearing and while that might not be rock’n'roll, it’s a damn good substitute.