Given the baggage involved, nobody’s sure whether Squeeze will last beyond the dates scheduled for this year. Rehearsals hadn’t yet started when I spoke with Difford in June. “We’re taking it one day at a time. Right now I see this reunion as being 27 or 28 shows, and it feels like going into the theater. I know the script and I’m going to enjoy playing the role of Chris Difford in Squeeze.”
Like Squeeze, Crowded House had some recovering to do: original drummer Paul Hester killed himself in 2005. Singer/guitarist Neil Finn and bassist Nick Seymour originally came back together for catharsis’s sake. And the reunion album, Time on Earth (on ATO), definitely sounds that way. It’s arguably the most loss-ridden pop record since R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, with a similar haunting undertow. Some tracks are specifically about Hester, others address the passage of time and general melancholia. As a commercial comeback it’s downright perverse, but deeper songs were always Finn’s specialty anyway, and this disc is up to their standard even if it takes more getting used to.
Finn says that the disc isn’t only about grieving — the upside was the kick that he and Seymour got from reviving the band after a decade-plus (they’ve since been joined by later-lineup keyboardist Mark Hart and new drummer Matt Sherrod). Finn, after all, doesn’t need another band — he’s done three solo discs and two with his brother Tim, and even toured Australia lately with Split Enz, his and Tim’s original band from the ’70s. Still, Crowded House seem the closest to his heart. “There’s some bands where you play for no better reason than you feel like having a play,” Finn tells me on the phone from LA. “For me that’s been unique to this band. There were a lot of things on our minds for these songs, the loss of Paul certainly being the most pressing. So it probably evokes what we were thinking about, which is living in the here and how — not just loss. I hope there’s some whimsy and exuberance in there too.”
The feel of the new songs might seem an odd match for the traditionally upbeat flavor of Crowded House shows. “That’s still there,” Finn promises. “There’s still a great bonhomie when we’re onstage; it’s very much in the moment. People might have their own private moments about Paul not being there — they might feel it when we do a song like ‘Four Seasons on One Day.’ It’s like having a family gathering, when you toast to those who aren’t there anymore. It doesn’t have to mean the whole gathering goes down the drain.”
SQUEEZE | Cape Cod Melody Tent, 21 West Main St, Hyannis | July 31 | 508.775.5630 | SQUEEZE + CHEAP TRICK | August 1 | CROWDED HOUSE + PETE YORN + LIAM FINN | August 5 | Bank of America Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave, Boston | 617.728.1600
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