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September 30, 2013 at 9:03 AM
Cheers to Glenn Tilbrook, power-pop lifer | Concert preview
“The first bit of advice any writer will give to an aspiring writer,” says English singer-songwriter-guitarist Glenn Tilbrook, who plays Seattle’s Tractor Tavern Wednesday, “is to write about what you know… and keep doing it.”
In their New Wave-era band Squeeze, Tilbrook and his writing partner, Chris Difford, embraced this philosophy.
Difford was the astute wordsmith, Tilbrook the honey-voiced tunesmith, and together they spun working-class vignettes — about life and love in the neighborhood pubs and basement apartments of their native South East London — into power-pop perfection.
From 1979 to 1981, Squeeze issued a top-tier trilogy of LPs — “Cool For Cats,” “Argybargy” and “East Side Story” — fully deserving of the John Lennon and Paul McCartney comparisons they elicited. The band went on to put out records nearly every other year until going on hiatus in 1999.
“It just wasn’t as good as it used to be,” Tilbrook explains. “I had to throw the chips up in the air, and start again.”
After a pair of solo outings, Tilbrook formed a new band, The Fluffers, in 2006. “We did all that stuff Squeeze did in the early days,” he says. “Driving ourselves around, setting up our own gear, and sleeping on people’s floors. It forged an incredible bond between us, and our playing got very tight.”
Inspired, he dialed up his old friend. “I said to Chris, ‘look, we’d be mad if we didn’t utilize some of that energy in Squeeze, because that’s what was missing towards the end.’”
Difford agreed, and Squeeze went back on the road in 2007, then again in 2012. Come 2014, they’ll release their first new album in 16 years.
Whether with the band or on his own, Tilbrook, 56, continues to be one of the most proficient, expressive guitarists in the business. His gigs are spirited and spontanteous, featuring Squeeze staples like “Up The Junction” and “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)” alongside selections from solo records like the forthcoming “Happy Endings” and even, on occasion, Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” on 12-string acoustic — if you can imagine.
For proof of his music’s endurance, Tilbrook doesn’t have to look any further than the faces in his audiences.
“I’ve been noticing younger people coming to the shows,” he says, “and not with their parents.”
Second-generation Squeeze fans?
“Maybe third!” Tilbrook laughs.
“Growing up, I know I went back and discovered a lot of things that had been made before I was born. Good music doesn’t age… and I think Squeeze has stood the test of time.”Glenn Tilbrook, Joe Michelini
8 p.m. Wednesday at the Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. NW, Seattle; $20 (206-789-3599 or www.tractortavern.com)
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