Together or apart, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford know a good song when they write one.
As the creative forces behind England’s successful Squeeze, the writing partners took a different approach with their new album “Some Fantastic Place.” Out on Sept. 14, the disc marks the return of journeyman singer Paul Carrack and the band’s reappearance on A&M, their original label.
Over the group’s 12-album career, Tilbrook and Difford – long considered a modern-day version of Lennon and McCartney – let their creative juices flow in separate but equal ways. Difford would write the lyrics in seclusion and hand them over to Tilbrook, who would then compose the music.
For “Some Fantastic Place,” the pair actually worked in the same room, bouncing ideas off each other to carve out more of their trademark witty and poignant songs.
“Over the last year, we’ve gotten a lot closer, and the fruits of that are on this record,” Tilbrook said in a recent interview from his private studio in London. “We’ve always clicked. We’ve always managed to write good songs. I’m pleased with our back catalog, but we decided to try and work in a different way and we discovered that it worked.”
Old habits are hard to break, though, but Tilbrook didn’t see that as a problem when Difford dropped off the words to the title track.
“When Chris gave me the lyrics, he didn’t say anything about it,” Tilbrook said, “but I knew who it was about.”
“Some Fantastic Place” is a haunting tribute to a mutual friend named Maxine.
“We had been friends with Max for years,” Tilbrook said, his voice pausing at the mere mention of her name. “She was my first love, and we stayed good friends. Very sadly, she died last year after fighting for three years with leukemia.”
If it wasn’t for Max, there would be no Squeeze. In 1973, when Tilbrook was only 16, he and Maxine were walking down a London street and she noticed an advertisement in a shop window. It was from Difford, seeking a guitarist for his band.
“I wasn’t going to answer it,” Tilbrook said, “but she said, ‘Now look, you should answer it.’ And here I am.”
Their alliance has lasted 20 years (and is still going strong), resulting in some of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 1980s – particularly “East Side Story” – through a stormy breakup in ’82 and a more commercially successful reunion in 1985.
How does Tilbrook see “Some Fantastic Place” standing among the other 11 Squeeze albums?
“Well, since the band got back together in 1985, of the pre-splitting up, I think ‘Argybargy’ and ‘East Side Story’ were our best records,” he said. “Since getting back together, I sort of like each record a bit more than the last one we’ve done, which is the way I’d like it to be, really.
“At the moment,” he said, laughing, “this is my favorite album we’ve done.”
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc