Q Magazine, October 1989.
When they first emerged, Squeeze were a little like Elvis Costello but not as rivetingly angry. And then Camden's Madness moved into the same London low-life manor, but with a nutty bravado to put the Deptford boys in the shadow. Yet here they still are, a solidly reassuring part of the furniture, still beavering away in the style that Ray Davies seems to have forgotten. While the subtler points of the band's last two albums, Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti and Babylon And On, were glossed over in the studio, Frank sounds as if bashed out with barely a pinch of fairydust. But for all its unassuming matiness as typified by the tortoise adorning the sleeve, the glamorously titled Frank is Squeeze's most winning work since East Side Story eight years ago.
By now we're familiar with Squeeze's world: the tightly budgeted, cramped world of London or thereabouts where your best chance lies with love, or if not, with the bitter wisdom that comes with love's failure. Most of the action in a Squeeze song takes place on the sofa with a TV silently flickering. In this vein, if Melody Motel is a trite and jaunty song about prostitutes and their customers, Can Of Worms is a superbly telling slice of one-parent family life-closer one assumes, to the experience of songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook. Likewise, the single If It's Love and Love Circles poignantly contrast romance in its budding and fading stages. As for She Doesn't Have To Shave, who else could get away with a song in sympathy with menstruation?
Toronto Star, October (?) 1989
Lyricist Chris Difford brings rueful humor to "Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken", a breezy lover's lament: "But things could be worse, things could be very bad for me", he sings, and you get the feeling he'll live to love another day and probably bungle it just as badly. C'est la vie.
There's a cheeky resignation to Frank, from the fatalistic ennui of "(This Could Be) The Last Time" to the droll philosophizing of "She Doesn't Have To Shave". Lead vocalist Glenn Tilbrook still delivers his lines with a boyish enthusiasm that plays nicely against Difford's hard-bitten wit and the band, led by Jools Holland's spidery keyboards, hasn't lost any of its zest.
Squeeze, it seems, has survived the storms of adulthood, humor intact.
Magazine Unknown, Late 1989
So it goes with Frank, which finds Squeeze at their most appealing and footloose on some tracks, at their most annoying and uptight on others. "Peyton Place" and "She Doesn't Have To Shave" feature the kind of arid, elongated melodies that give sophistication a bad name, although the latter contains a memorable example of Difford's off-kilter sensibilities, contrasting the discomforts suffered by males (the daily shave) and females (monthly cramps). As usual, cornball romantic themes and hapless suitors abound: "If It's Love" beautifully captures the anxious optimism of a new relationship, topped off with a hint of Tilbrook's fluttering falsetto. Later on he shouts, "I'm a salmon who made it back upstream". Wonder what a shrink would make of that? In a rare lead role, deep-throated Difford sounds like he just polished off a six-pack on "Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken", a jazzy shuffle so woeful it's comic. Thanks for not belching, Chris.
At best, Squeeze is the sound of smart people making a dumb noise. The crackling "(This Could Be) The Last Time" (not a cover) uses Tilbrook's squawking guitar to echo the agitation when he wonders, "Will I repeat the mistakes I made?" And jivin' Jools Holland's "Dr Jazz", an easy-rollin' New Orleans salute, is sweet, simple fun, y'all. Like a tray of hors d'oeuvres, Frank has yummy and not so yummy portions - it's enticing enough, just not a total meal. Same old Squeeze.