- SQUEEZE Hourglass (A&M)
- Week Ending 29th August 1987
- 1 Week At #1
After the brief false alarm of “Glen & Chris” releasing Diamond Lights in the Spring of 1987 (which turned out to be a rather brilliant slab of doom pop by footballers Hoddle & Waddle), the other Glenn & Chris – better known by their surnames, Difford & Tilbrook – really did return later in the year with Squeeze.
Two years had passed since the moody and grown-up pop of Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti had been met with a distinctly lukewarm reception. Lathered in Laurie Latham’s trademark production, it was probably not the Squeeze which the public loved best. Perhaps as a result, the band stormed back with a slice of classic perky pop with a ridiculous (and ridiculously catchy) chorus and a lot of the old chutzpah restored. Hourglass was their best in years, and also their biggest hit in a long time.
Driven by blasting horns, choppy guitars and real drums, it harked back to the likes of Pulling Mussels (From A Shell) and – lyrically, at least – their first hit Take Me I’m Yours from 1978. Squeeze were fun again.
This breeziness extended to the album Babylon And On (another great, punsome Squeeze title), which toned down the musical sophistication of Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti and Sweets From A Stranger but kept the songwriting as sharp as ever.
Hourglass was a smash in America, who had always been partial to Squeeze but never enough to put them in the Billboard Top 20 before. Another single from Babylon And On, the answerphone-message-drama of 853-5937, also made the US Top 40, but frustratingly there would be no further hits in Britain (though Trust Me To Open My Mouth really should have been a success).
By 1989, their label A&M had lost interest and the Frank album wasn’t even granted a proper lead single to speak of. Frank tanked at #58, a sharp drop-off from the #14 peak of Babylon & On, and was by far their worst-performing album. In truth, it was almost as solid a collection as its predecessor, and surely would have been helped by releasing If It’s Love, She Doesn’t Have To Shave or even the gorgeously poignant ballad Can Of Worms as a single before the album launched.
Warner Brothers (in the shape of Reprise Records) came calling, but there was to be no Elvis Costello-esque fanfare to accompany the debut for their new label, in 1991. Play would be no Spike, despite again being a very strong record with some of their finest work.
The main difference between Squeeze and someone like a Costello, or many other highly-regarded acts from the 70s and 80s post-punk era, is that however acclaimed their albums might happen to be, nobody really bought them. Squeeze were always a singles band in the mind of the record-buying public, and their best-selling albums were compilations (Singles 45s & Under, The Big Squeeze, Squeeze’s Greatest Hits, etc). Warners probably didn’t fully understand this; it’s one thing signing R.E.M or Lou Reed, or even The Blue Nile, as they did in the early 1990s, but Squeeze are not perceived as an albums act however much they deserve to be.
This was summed up once more when 1993’s award-nominated Some Fantastic Place marked their return to A&M, garnered more plaudits than ever, generated four minor chart hits, and yet still barely scraped into the Top 30.