on 23 June 2014
Whilst waiting for Chris Difford to polish off his batch of lyrics for the new Squeeze album (apparently the soundtrack to an upcoming ITV bio on DJ and raconteur Danny Baker) Glenn Tilbrook took the opportunity to put together his 4th solo album - Happy Endings. It's a fairly low key collection with Tilbrook playing most of the instruments, including Ipad keyboards, and a polished 'made at home' vibe. Whilst it's no 'Eastside Story' this album boasts at least 3 really great songs - 'Ray', 'Persephone' and 'Everybody Sometimes' - earworm melodies, supreme musicianship and some of Tilbrook's finest vocals for a decade - he certainly sounds refreshed and reinvigorated. What the rest of the songs lack is the full band treatment and Difford's gruff bass vocals and, more importantly, his killer bittersweet lyrics. Squeeze fans however will find much to enjoy.
Firstly, I’d like to state that I have a massive love and respect for Glenn Tilbrook and his music; his talent and ability are beyond question and he is one of the greatest British songwriters of all time. However, despite his credentials, Glenn’s work has not always been consistently brilliant and so a new solo album from him doesn’t necessary mean that it will be a work of genius. His latest album, “Happy Ending”, which I bought after a fantastic gig in Brighton, just before Christmas in 2013, is a bit of a mixed bag and we are treated to some really lovely songs together with some rather questionable choices too. It’s certainly worth the hard-earned money of any fan of Tilbrook or Squeeze and it’s great to have some new material from Glenn, but, as enjoyable as it is in parts, I very much doubt that it will endure as a fan favourite for years to come. I certainly don’t regret purchasing “Happy Ending” (especially as my copy is signed), but I doubt that it will be an album I play that often, either.
Before I go on to what I didn’t enjoy, I’d like to start by talking about my favourite tracks and, thankfully, there are quite a few. “Ray”, a rather gorgeous shimmering, melodic song about an older, cantankerous soul, starts the album in style and if every track on the album was as good as this one, we’d be talking about a classic here. “Persephone”, a delightful chamber-pop composition about a female free-spirit has an interesting and aesthetically pleasing instrumentation and arrangement; it is absolutely impossible to dislike. “Everybody Sometimes” is a slice of classic Glenn Tilbrook, with a very pleasing melody, interesting left-field chords and a warm, beautiful chorus; it’s utterly superb and probably my pick of the album. “Kev and Dave” is an excellent song but I can’t help a trick was missed here as, with this terrific music, melody and lyrics, if it was given the full Squeeze band treatment instead of the sparse, minimalistic arrangement here, it could be so much more. “Peter” also has an enjoyable pop sensibility to it and tells the story of the kind of great character Chris Difford usually excels at which demonstrates how good a lyricist Glenn has become over the years.
Sadly, there are a handful of tracks on “Happy Ending” which really don’t quite hit the mark. The indian-flavoured “Mud Island” is difficult to love, the drums, kazoos and tuneless vocals all adding up to a cacophony of noise that the lyrics cannot rescue. “Bongo Bill” is really quite terrible. I’m sorry, I realise that it is probably quite precious to the Tilbrook family, but as a piece of music for general consumption, it is twee, irritating (especially the “That’s me!” snippet voiced by son, Wesley) and has me reaching for the skip button – I literally cannot stand to listen to it. The jokey “Ice Cream” is just bizarre! According the Glenn, it’s something his Grandfather used to sing to him when he was being bounced on his knee, so it is easy to understand the sentimental value of the song, but it’s certainly an odd way to finish the album and the jury is out on that one. The other songs I haven’t mentioned are neither remarkable nor bad and it all adds up to an above-average album with some great and not-so-great moments. In other words (without wishing to be unfair), not too different to much of Glenn’s solo output; well worth buying for the flashes of genius he is capable of, but not an album that will be heralded as one of the best he has put his name to. I would certainly recommend it to existing fans, but I’m sceptical as to whether it has the power to win non-believers over.
on 15 December 2014
Glenn Tilbrook’s fourth solo album is a clever pop collection, some melodies reflecting what the casual Squeeze listener [thinking of myself] would expect and appreciate, as well as nods to other familiar precursors.
If you like names, this will engage at that simple level, with tracks titled Ray, Persephone [OK, this one is less everyday], Rupert, Dennis, Bongo Bill, Kev and Dave, and Peter. Like you, I know many of these people very well indeed.
The album is at its strongest at the start. Opener Ray is most Squeeze-like in establishing its pop chorus-hook, the acoustic guitar and popping percussion driving it brightly. Second Persephone begins with a Tyrannosaurus Rex Deborah-like guitar and reverse voice and Mickey Finn percussion – all embellished with accompanying orchestral strings. Third Mud Island continues this triplet of late 60s pop-culture reference points: here, sitar and tabla providing the Eastern influence. Fourth Rupert opens with an acoustic guitar riff which is again, I think, T-Rex inspired/pilfered. Fifth Everybody Sometimes returns to Glenn’s Squeeze roots, his vocal here as elsewhere in fine fettle. Sixth Dennis begins with another seemingly plagiarized acoustic guitar riff that is so familiar, the beginning of The Who's Dogs.
It is all delightfully listenable.