Tag Archives: Squeeze

The Blarg No. 54: The SunPunchers

Guys, things are stressful out there. Unless you’re in a coma—then you might be able to relax. Maybe not. I don’t know, I’ve never been in a coma. Perhaps being in a coma is very stressful. For those of us relegated to a life of horrifying consciousness, though, it’s a real shit show—especially if you are compassionate, or have something like a conscience. Whether it’s a natural disaster (which I firmly believe we are experiencing at a much higher rate due to all the man-induced damage, because science, and really, when it seems like each successive event is the worst of its kind, how can you argue against?), or the daily, often hourly what-the-fuck moments handed down from governments regional, national, and international, it seems impossible to complete one reflection on how to positively impact/change/resist one situation before being forced to react to the next.

How do you cope?

Sometimes, you have to shut the world off, or risk being overwhelmed. Sometimes, you need a little break. Sometimes, despite the heat, you need a warm blanket of an album to soothe your frayed and frazzled nerves. For me, one of those albums is Some Fantastic Place. Released by Squeeze in 1993 (nearly 25 years ago!), Some Fantastic Place came at a time in the band’s career where they were being largely ignored commercially, and only about five years out from calling it quits for a second time (the first being back in 1982—I could go on and on about this band if anyone’s curious…anyone?), which is a shame, because they were making some of the best music of their career, and SFP is often considered by fans (myself included) to be the third in a trio of albums (preceded by Frank (1989) and Play (1991)) that showcase the band at the height of their abilities both in the lyrics of Chris Difford and the music (and voice and guitar) of Glenn Tilbrook. The album that followed, Ridiculous (1995), is pretty good, though not as consistent in my opinion, and the last album of Squeeze’s second coming, Domino (1998), has some great moments, but is one I really only suggest to completists. If you’re still with me at this point, there is a third act to Squeeze, and the first album to come out of it, Cradle to the Grave (2015), is a very fine return (essentially a soundtrack to a TV show for the BBC that I have not seen, the album reminds me a lot of Kinks albums like Arthur or Lola Versus Powerman that had a very definite throughline—an almost Broadway musical-like quality), and their new album, The Knowledge, is due out this fall (if you couldn’t guess, I’m very excited).

Why am I going on and on about Squeeze right now? Especially recommending an album that came out roughly a quarter century ago? Do I need a reason? This is what I do in times of stress that isn’t drinking excessively (thankfully something I’ve managed to break the habit of), compulsive eating, or just checking out completely. We’ve got to stay engaged, and for me, this means taking a step back every once in awhile, listening to a favorite album, and trying to play along to and master Glenn Tilbrook’s riff on “Third Rail” (read: cursing and failing). What do you do? How do you manage? I’m genuinely curious.

This week’s Limited Engagement features four of the five members of The SunPunchers: Betsy Ganz, Jon Rauhouse, Serena Fonze, and Dominic Armstrong (Lindsay Cates was not in attendance). These four fantastic musicians crammed their gear into our front room, played two gorgeous songs (“Hold You Now” and “Sodium Pentothal Blues”), then sat and talked to me for about an hour or so. Have I ever mentioned how much I love having musicians on the show? If I haven’t, you should know that it is a tremendous amount. You can get The SunPuncher’s EP, Honey, on their website, and their first full length album, Levity (which is one of my favorite albums of 2017 thus far), is available on Bandcamp, or you can pick up a copy locally over at Stinkweeds.


Listen to LE 54 – The SunPunchers

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

The Blarg No. 52: Chicago Edition

As I’m sitting here, writing this week’s blarg, it is our fifth and final day in Chicago. If you factor in Thursday being our arrival/getting settled in day, Sunday being taken up by wedding—which was the whole reason we flew out, and it was a lovely wedding—and today being the pack things up and leave day, we had roughly two days to explore the downtown area. I have the same feelings about Chicago that I do with any other city I’ve visited, which are that I could live here for years and never really know the city, that I feel most at home in a city, and that I really, really hate driving in the city. Driving is great in the suburbs and more open, rural areas, where there is space, long stretches of scenic viewing, and most importantly, more room between vehicles. Driving in the city is stressful, and I much prefer walking and utilizing public transit, because really, in a well-planned city, you almost don’t need a car. Which is why I would say Los Angeles is not well-planned at all. As the great poet laureate of the endearingly cranky once sang, “I love L.A.,” but I’m pretty sure that it was designed by someone who wondered what it would be like if all of the layers of layer were presented in pancake form.

Chicago has some wonderful, iconic cultural attractions, that I highly recommend you check out when you visit the city, and I hope to visit them as well the next time we come out. What I was more interested in, though, was book and record stores, so if you’re interested in hearing about those, then this week’s show is made for you. Janell’s family is here in Chicago, so the likelihood is that we’ll be back, and I’ll have the opportunity to do more exploring, but there is also an equal likelihood that I will continue to seek out the record stores that I didn’t get to on this trip. I’m a man with a mission, you see—I’ve been looking for a vinyl edition of Frank, my favorite Squeeze album, for quite a number of years now, and this search dominates every excursion we make outside of the Phoenix area. An obsession? Yes. An unhealthy one? That’s debatable. You live your life, I’ll live mine. We did go to a jazz festival, and that was interesting…

This week’s show was meant to be recorded entirely in Chicago, but I had difficulty finding circumstances under which I could record and not look like a crazy person, so some of it is recorded in Chicago, and some of it will be recorded when we get back into Phoenix, and the whole thing is going up a day late, because, well, we’ll say it’s due to the Labor Day holiday. Look for it to be posted late Monday or sometime on Tuesday.

LE 52 contains some thoughts on the institution of marriage and weddings themselves; reviews of the record and bookstores we went to; talk of breakfast food, a particularly delicious cookie sandwich, and our lack of culinary adventurousness; reflections on Chicago; and an explanation of how the unifying thread of this entire trip was the Tom Waits song “Better Off Without a Wife.” If this sort of stream of consciousness thing appeals to you, then this week’s show is so far up your alley, it’s tickling your tonsils.


Listen to LE 52 – Chicago Edition

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

How to Play Guitar with Your Idol

First of all, we’re gonna skip right over the fact that I haven’t written on here since July of 2013.

Instead, we’re going to launch into why Glenn Tilbrook–on top of being a vocalist of amazing skill and range–is a musician of the highest order, and one of the most underrated guitarists in the history of anything that has ever claimed to be underrated.  Mr. Tilbrook is the musical half of the songwriting partnership (the lyrical half being Chris Difford) behind the band Squeeze who are–in keeping with the theme–one of the most underrated bands in the history of anything that has ever claimed to be underrated.  Squeeze is best known for the singles “Tempted” (which has appeared in approximately a thousand commercials and has been covered by everyone and their grandmother) and “Up the Junction” (the song’s most recent notable use is in a pivotal scene of the show Breaking Bad, one of my all-time favorite shows, and so you can only imagine when I heard a song by Squeeze being used in the background of the scene where Hank, but that’s way the hell off topic). They had some success stateside in the ’80s, sold out Madison Square Garden, had some top 40 singles, blah, blah, blech. You interested in Squeeze? Find these albums and listen to them: ArgybargyEast Side Story, and Play.  Mind you, they’re all good, but those are three of my favorites, and so why shouldn’t you start there?

Anyway, I could (and do) go on at great length about how amazing Squeeze is, but this particular ramble is focused on the nimble fretwork of Glenn Tilbrook (and how I got to play guitar with him).  For recorded examples of Tilbrook’s genius, listen to the following Squeeze songs: “It’s So Dirty,” “Another Nail in My Heart,” “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” “Black Coffee in Bed,” “When the Hangover Strikes,” “Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken,” “Letting Go,” “Some Fantastic Place,” just to name a few; all of his various solo endeavors; the Aimee Mann album I’m with Stupid–he’s all over that one.

However, to truly understand the genius of Glenn Tilbrook, one must experience him live, solo, unencumbered by a band.  The solo stage is where Glenn spreads his fingers and lets them sail up and down the frets in a way that cannot be accurately described, it must be experienced, and I have done so on 5 occasions over the past 13 years. Next time you should go with me, he’s brilliant.

During solo shows, Tilbrook is known for his stage antics–stepping out into the audience, playing the final encore on top of the bar, taking the crowd out into the streets, and even inviting some lucky soul up onto the stage to play with the master.  I had never personally witnessed this last one, but on the night of Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, I not only witnessed, but actually was that lucky soul.  Just before launching into a blistering solo for “Take Me, I’m Yours” (another one of the songs you should listen to), the man asks if there are any guitarists in the audience, a few of us, including myself tentatively raise their hands, he wants one of us on stage.  Absolutely no one is going.  Glenn’s just hanging out on stage keeping rhythm on G minor, and the offer is almost gone.  Before my mind can comprehend what I’m doing (which is probably a really good thing), I am rushing towards the stage and mounting the stairs.

Here’s the blow by blow best I can remember it: Glenn asks if I want to play acoustic or electric (I’m pretty sure I just mumbled something and pointed to his beautiful, black Stratocaster), he helps me with the knobs so the thing makes sound (because I have suddenly forgotten how to do anything), at some point in this I let him know that I don’t know all the chords (one of the few Squeeze songs that I did not know all the chords to), he tells me the chords, he asks me my name, he introduces me to the crowd, and then we’re off and going.  I’m playing “Take Me, I’m Yours” with the GlennmotherfuckingTilbrook, and I did not totally embarrass myself.  Towards the end of the song, he asked me if I wanted a solo, and there was no way that was happening, but, urged on, I did mess around a little bit.  Song finished, the man gives me a hug, a shout out to the crowd, I put the amazing guitar back (I didn’t take the guitar pick–why didn’t I take the pick?), and back into the audience I go.

Down there in audience land, the disbelief sets in.  Did that actually happen?  It did.  My friends took photos, my girl shot video, fellow audience members accosted me and gave me pats on the back.

With all due respect to my friends and loved ones, and not to discount any other achievements I might have amassed along the way, this was probably the single greatest moment in my life.

Oh, and the chords? Verse: Gm Cm; Chorus: Eb D Gm Cm back to Gm; all solos played over Gm.  I will never forget those chord changes.

1 Comment

Filed under Ramblings and Rants