The Police and Genesis are the rock reunions getting most of the attention this summer. Two other bands with smaller but rabid followings — Crowded House and Squeeze — are also getting back together after taking dramatically different paths.
Squeeze’s partial reunion is an exercise in nostalgia and a business calculation. Crowded House is trying to make a mark with new music after its two surviving original members bonded again over the death of their drummer.
Crowded House’s new CD comes less than a year after release of a DVD and disc of the band’s 1996 farewell concert before hundreds of thousands of fans outside of the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
You say goodbye, we say hello?
Drummer committed suicideThe melodic pop trio from New Zealand was an instant sensation with hits like “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong” in 1987. It was a peak they never matched in the United States, although they had a more consistent popularity in other parts of the world.
Crowded House began unraveling when drummer Paul Hester quit in 1993. Drummers are in the background of many bands, but it was hard to miss Hester’s outsized personality — in case you did, he’d leave his kit to perform handstands across the stage. Chief songwriter Neil Finn and bassist Nick Seymour dissolved the band a few years later.
Hester committed suicide in 2005. Such tragedies are always hard to explain, but Finn does not feel the lack of the band in Hester’s life had anything to do with it. Hester even knew before he died that the three men might work together again.
New album full of memories
Finn and Seymour began writing the next year, and the new CD they made, “Time on Earth,” is suffused with the memory of Hester and the fragility of life.
It was only after the songs were together that Finn and Seymour decided that it felt like Crowded House again. Guitarist Mark Hart, who had joined the one-time trio in 1992, was invited back. Former Beck drummer Matt Sherrod came onboard, in part because Finn liked the freshness of someone who knew less about Crowded House than any of the others who auditioned.
In the cases of both Crowded House and Squeeze, age melted away some of the annoyances that had broken them apart.
“I just feel like being in a band again,” Finn said. “It is true that more tolerance and appreciation of difference now exists. When we were younger we wanted each other to be like ourselves but now we realize with a band it’s the difference that creates the interest.”
Band failed to reunite before
The Squeeze that is touring this summer does not include original keyboardist Jools Holland or drummer Gilson Lavis. But it does bring together Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, the singing and songwriting team that was the band’s heart.
Not that it was easy. Squeeze, which broke up in 1999, was once featured in a reality show that tried to reunite the band for a one-night gig. It failed.
“We had an exhausting marriage that went on for 25 years,” Difford said. “It got to a point where we needed counseling but we didn’t bother with counseling. We just got into the boxing ring. The boxing ring of silence, really, because we didn’t actually say or do anything.”
The two men had to talk to make decisions surrounding the re-release of some of their material in Britain. Tilbrook initially rejected a suggestion to tour together but changed his mind, Difford said.
Smart move. Tilbrook and Difford separately may draw some folks to a small club. As Squeeze, the name behind songs like “Tempted,” “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Up the Junction,” they can fill much larger venues, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert industry publication Pollstar.
In in for the money
There’s another business reality behind the spate of reunions, Bongiovanni said.
“A lot of these musicians could get better paydays today than when they were touring at the height of their careers, when touring was done as a way to sell records,” he said. “Today you tour to make money.”
Finn said he doubts that he would be able to make considerably more money with the band than he would as a solo artist.
“Sharing the proceeds with the band means I may end up with less but it will be a lot more fun,” he said. “In the end the collaboration and band dynamic will make the future bigger and brighter.”
A sense of appreciation for Squeeze’s legacy, along with time, smoothed over many of the resentments that had kept him apart from Tilbrook, Difford said. His partner is, ultimately, “like another wing of my family,” he said.
Just a nostalgia act
Unlike the men of Crowded House, Difford doesn’t see Squeeze with a future as anything more than a nostalgia act.
“Things are far too complicated,” he said. “Then again, I didn’t think we would go on tour. Things can change and things will change and that’s the beauty of our relationship.”
At the time of its demise, Squeeze felt it was treading water creatively. Difford wonders how much interest there would be in a new Squeeze album from anyone besides a few devoted fans.
He’s keenly interested in an example set by Prince, who has given away new CDs to fans who buy tickets to his concerts.
“Most of the people who come to our gigs are coming for a nostalgia show, to remind them of their college days or a romance,” he said. “Are they going to buy my solo album or Glenn’s? I don’t think they are. But if you gave it to them, I think they’d be happy to have it.”