Beneath its buoyant melodies, Squeeze's songs often depicted the alcohol-soaked aftermath of wrecked relationships. Chris Difford wrote the lyrics, remarkable for their frank sexuality and self-sabotaging characters, and Glenn Tilbrook composed the catchy hooks. Difford's strikingly bright vocals infused these bleak tales with an incongruity that optimists might interpret as the beleaguered protagonists' resilience. But Difford's latest release, South East Side Story, which contains 10 stark, twangy acoustic renditions of Squeeze singles, eliminates all that ambiguity. Stripped of their giddy synthesizers and propulsive new-wave beats, these tunes bare their devastated souls.
"I couldn't see a reason to play them the way they'd previously been played," says Difford. "I decided to gain ownership of them.
"We had two very different personalities, so you'd expect two very different renditions," he adds, referring to his former mate. "As the song goes, I'm a little bit country, he's a little bit rock and roll."
Difford harmonizes throughout South East Side Story with Dorie Jackson, who, along with multi-instrumentalist Melvin Duffy, will accompany him onstage. Her presence proves especially poignant during "Tempted," which lends voice in this version to both sides of the struggle with fidelity. "I'm very fortunate to have a lady singing with me," says Difford. "When I wrote the lyrics originally, I was juvenile. I didn't have much of a grasp on relationships. Times have changed. I'm 52 years old now, with four children."