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Album Review

Squeeze finally had a big hit with 1987's Babylon and On but its 1989 follow-up, Frank, was its better, a superior showcase of their strengths as a band and Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook as songwriters. Despite the success of Babylon and in particular its punchy hit single, "Hourglass," Squeeze decided to scale back the sound of Frank, moving away from the glassy, cavernous Babylon — a production immediately evocative of its times — in favor of a relatively unadorned, clean sound, one that highlights the crispness of Difford and Tilbrook's songs and Squeeze's interplay. Both are crucial to the success of Frank, feeding off of each other in a way that none of their previous records quite showcased. Early peaks like Argybargy and East Side Story had depth and energy, but Frank has a quiet, lived-in confidence, never drawing attention to Tilbrook's melodicism, Difford's sharp lyrics, or the group's warm, sympathetic interaction, particularly the easy-rolling keyboards of Jools Holland. Jools departed after Frank, so it's appropriate that he's given a sendoff in the form of his original New Orleans jump blues "Dr. Jazz," a friendly, rollicking rocker that fits in nicely with Difford and Tilbrook's pop, which never strays far afield from their signatures, whether it's the bright, effervescent "If It's Love," the sly bid for feminine sympathy "She Doesn't Have to Shave," the tongue-in-cheek shuffle "Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken," or the cheerful country two-step "Melody Motel." The songs may be recognizably within the duo's comfort zone but they're pushing just beyond it, notably on the intricately structured "Peyton Place" — whose instrumental bridge is another fine spotlight for Jools — and the cascading "Love Circles." Even these songs feel relaxed in a way Babylon and On never did — indeed, it's remarkable that Squeeze aren't shooting for another big hit just after "Hourglass" — and that's what makes Frank so quietly enjoyable: it's a modest record with Squeeze doing what they do best, which is plenty good indeed.

Customer Reviews

Let's Be Frank

For me this album is great and far from great at the same time. Let me explain. There are some of Squeeze's best songs on here, and that's a bold statement. The problem is the mix, there is NO low bottom end, so the whole thing sounds tinny. Therefore the greatness of the melodies doesn't really come through. I always hoped that during the re-issuing of this material that Glenn would get to re-mix this album. Most albums that ET Thorngren produced or mixed have the same problem. Even some of his re-mixes of Bob Marley's cuts have no bottom end, very weird for a reggae artist. Melody Motel is such a great song, but not a great track, due to the lack of bass. And also for me, It's Too Late, titled incorrectly, is another standout writing wise. There are also some other great songs here as well. This was also the last studio lp with Jools.

One of their finest works...

Having come off an extremely costly album (Babylon and On) Squeeze took a more DYI approach with Frank. The album was recorded in a very modest studio and isn't filled with all the "studio trickery" as the last record. This would mark a large change in the band such as Jools Hollands last studio performance with the band. Squeeze failed to follow up the success of 1987's Babylon and On with Frank as there wasn't any real single material here. What you do get is one of the most interesting sounds from the band and some of their finest material to date. Squeeze almost took on a back to basics approach with a very jazz rock feel across the record. This is also very obvious from "unreleased sessions" from Frank that can be found on the deluxe reissue. Songs like "Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken" and "Dr. Jazz" find the group showing off their musical chops with the beautiful jazz guitar by Tillbrook and Jools' New Orleans style piano respectively. Other gems include "Can of Worms", a classic Difford tale as well as "Melody Motel" with Tillbrook bringing back a slight country vibe not seen since 1981's East Side Story.

Frank as a whole was an un-expected follow up from Babylon and On but still remains a true classic by most Squeeze fans. It is by far one of their most stand out records the band ever recorded. They would never recapture the sound of Frank again and some say it was their last true Squeeze album due to the departure of Jools Holland shortly after. A must have record in any Squeeze collection.


Rest of the album, please? Absolutely one of the best albums that ever came out of the 80's! I stumbled upon this when I worked at a music store and we listened to the demo over and over again. Everytime I got to choose the music, this is what I always picked. Very upbeat--Love it.


Formed: 1974

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '10s

As one of the most traditional pop bands of the new wave, Squeeze provided one of the links between classic British guitar pop and post-punk. Inspired heavily by the Beatles and the Kinks, Squeeze was the vehicle for the songwriting of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who were hailed as the heirs to Lennon and McCartney's throne during their heyday in the early '80s. Unlike Lennon and McCartney, the partnership between Difford and Tilbrook was a genuine collaboration, with the former writing the...
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