Those Darn Accordions: Squeeze Machine

Those Darn Accordions: Squeeze MachineWhat started as a lark — an accordion gang raiding San Francisco restaurants to play “Lady of Spain” — has turned into a very productive career for Those Darn Accordions. Their latest album, Squeeze Machine, continues the tradition of accordion rock and oddball humor that has made the band “America’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll accordion band” for more than 15 years.

The band has clearly evolved since the early days when they’d cram eight accordions on stage. Their older records leaned heavily on squeezebox-specific kitsch: songs about Lawrence Welk and all-accordion renditions of rock classics (often with octogenarian Clyde Forsman on vocals). But while the old TDA was an accordion band that played rock songs, the modern-day TDA is really a rock band that just happens to sport a few accordions. They’ve pared down the accordion lineup to four, turned the focus from covers to originals, and tightened up their sound.

One thing hasn’t changed, though: they’re still having a hell of a lot of fun. Lead singer/songwriter Paul Rogers populates the album with a cast of colorful characters, ranging from a disgruntled member of a Beatles tribute band (“This Song”), to a squabbling bicycling couple (“Tandem Bike”), and a Willy Loman-esque traveling salesman (“Wrinkle Suit”). Cleveland native (and new “Price is Right” host) Drew Carey even shows up to help renovate a house on “Glass of Beer Polka.”

Meanwhile, the band doesn’t stick to any one genre for long, trading rock ‘n’ roll for country hoedowns (“Heads and Horns”) and swing (“Cocktails in Tehran”) when the mood strikes. On some tracks, heavy wah-wah-like effects make you wonder if you’re actually listening to accordions at all. (You are.) And, of course, there are still a couple covers — AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and “It’s Now or Never” both get the TDA treatment. (Longtime fans may remember that a version of the latter appeared on the band’s first album, Vongole Fisarmonica, too.)

Squeeze Machine does an excellent job showcasing TDA‘s strengths: catchy, offbeat, high-energy, accordion-driven tunes. It’s tough to keep things fresh after 15 years, but Those Darn Accordions are clearly up to the challenge.

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