Chris Difford

I Didn't Get Where I Am

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For 25 years, Chris Difford was the quiet half of the songwriting duo in Squeeze, rarely singing but writing nearly all of the band's lyrics. So when Glenn Tilbrook, Difford's old songwriting partner, dropped a solo album with an unexpected amount of lyrical complexity, the burden was on Difford to reply with a disc that matched the melodicism of Tilbrook's. And I Didn't Get Where I Am succeeds, frankly, by sounding nothing at all like Squeeze. Instead of rehashing the quirky lyricisms that defined that band's brand of Brit-pop, Difford opts for a smoother, gentler, decidedly more adult and nuanced feel. The material is ballad-heavy, owing more to James Taylor than the Beatles, and Difford's vocals -- which were always hoarse, bassy, and uneasy on Squeeze albums -- instead sound warm and inviting. The best moments are when Difford switches into full ballad mode, such as on the oddly affecting gay love song "Cowboys Are My Weakness" ("Some say I make a good straight gay man" he offers in the liner notes) or the lilting "For a Change." There's also a fascinating take on Squeeze's "Electric Trains," where Difford restores the country-rock arrangement from his original demo. Part of the credit is due co-writer and producerFrancis Dunnery, whose even and warm production adds a glow to the disc. But what truly makes I Didn't Get Where I Am so interesting is that it's entirely unexpected, that even very few dedicated Squeeze fans realized that Difford had this type of record in him. And while it sounds nothing like the music he's known for -- it's hard to believe this is the same man who sang "Cool For Cats" -- it's extremely welcome nonetheless.

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