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Squeeze's LP Frank is danceable, but mostly mediocre

Night editor: debby has a comment on formatting the lyrics below

FRANK

Squeeze

A & M Records

By SANDE CHEN

THE POP BAND SQUEEZE has been around for a long time -- 12 years -- and as would be expected, they have several distinctive qualities. They crank out endless love songs and their lyrics try to reflect the nuances and actions of everyday life. Their music, light and danceable, consists of running rhythms and pleasant-sounding melodies.

Their newest album Frank is no exception. It contains a string of love songs, from the very first single, "If It's Love" (not to be confused with "Is That Love"), to the last song on the album, "Is It Too Late." The range of topics runs the gamut from menstruation in "She Doesn't Have to Shave" to infidelity in "Rose I Said." Yet Frank disappoints; it lacks the intensity that was so notable in earlier hits like "If I Didn't Love You" or "Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)," both from Argy Bargy (1980).

Frank also marks a slight change from their last album, Babylon and On (1987). There seems to be more of an emphasis on keyboards and jazz influences. In fact, keyboardist Jools Holland's song, "Dr. Jazz," is a tribute to goodtime New Orleans jazz. However, "Melody Motel" just sounds like a mimicry of country music.

Frank definitely has several good songs. "If It's Love" was a good choice for a single. The style is signature Squeeze and showcases what they are very good at, namely sentimental love songs. Driving tunes -- "Rose I Said" and "(This Could Be) The Last Time" -- are the true highlights of Frank. "Rose I Said" tells the story of infidelity, betrayal, and guilt with a passion that proves that this was actually the band that wrote "Cool For Cats." "(This Could Be) The Last Time," discordant and slightly reminiscent of "Another Nail in My Heart," describes the euphoria of finding Miss Right. "Peyton Place" and "Love Circles," two love songs, are also good.

In "She Doesn't Have to Shave," Squeeze tackles the agonies of menstruation. The music is decent and fine, but the constant choruses of "She's so lucky she doesn't have to shave/I'm so lucky I'm not doubled up in pain" is enough to make one want to throw the album out the window, down a deep shaft, and smash it. The attempt to depict the perfect sympathetic thirty-something husband comes off as smug and condescending, and the song just does not work.

Another song, "Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken," a travel into darkest misery, ironically is very upbeat, a sort of simplified Morrissey with a jazzy kick. It seems curious that lead vocalist Glenn Tilbrook could sound so happy singing lines like:

[it.9p,.9p]

Slaughtered, gutted

and heartbroken

With no spirit or no soul

My emotions have been stolen

Love has left me with this hole

Now my heart's a deep dark cavern

Emptiness is all I feel

[it0,0]

The remaining songs, "Melody Motel," "Dr. Jazz," "Is It Too Late," and the melancholy "Can of Worms," are simultaneously enjoyable and forgettable.

To be sure, loyal Squeeze fans will be absolutely thrilled with the release of Frank, but to anyone else, this album is bland and mediocre, even though some songs have merit. For those interested in seeing Squeeze live, the band will be playing two shows at the Orpheum on Nov. 29 and 30 with musical guests Katrina and the Waves.