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Frank Black
Albums

  • Frank Black,
  • Teenager Of The Year,
  • The Cult Of Ray,
  • Frank Black & The Catholics,
  • Pistolero,
  • Dog In The Sand,
  • Black Letter Days,
  • Devils Workshop,
  • Show Me Your Tears,
  • Frank Black Francis,
  • Honeycomb,
  • Fastman Raiderman,
  • 93-03,
  • Bluefinger,
  • Svn Fngrs,
  • Petits Fours,
  • NonStopErotik,


    Frank Black / Black Francis
    Relations

  • The Pixies,








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Frank Black

    teenager of the year 93-03 bluefinger frank black dog in the sand

    Frank Black( 1993 )
    Los Angeles / I Heard Ramona Sing / Hang On To Your Ego / Fu Manchu / Places Named After Numbers / Czar / Old Black Dawning / Ten Percenter / Brackish Boy / Two Spaces / Tossed / Parry The Wind High Low / Adda Lee / Every Time I Go Around Here / Don't Ya Rile Em

    So, old Frank breaks up The Pixies, becoming tired of being expected to scream quite so much at concerts. Becoming concerned The Pixies were falling into formula and becoming tired with that groups bass player in particular. So, he goes it alone and in a hilarious piss-take of the kind of artistic sleeves record label 4AD would impress upon Pixies releases, decided to create all of his own artwork for this release. So, we get a fat looking Frank dressed in a suit, a fairly garish front cover, Frank sporting a 'Fu-Manchu' moustache, Frank wearing a bright green suit and holding some sort of lizard upto his pair of comedy glasses. It's actually completely hilarious, but must have appalled his bosses at 4AD! And, you know. Frank Black solo just isn't as sexy a prospect as The Pixies in full flight, which is perhaps why parts of his solo career have received undue neglect whilst The Pixies continue to be praised from the hilltops. This particular set of songs was actually originally written and slated for a prospective Pixies follow-up to 'Trompe Le Monde'. In essence then, these are Pixies songs in all but the personnel performing them. The production makes a break with The Pixies being more richly produced although the actual style of music is still rooted in garage/surf/space/rock guitar music!

    After a little quiet introduction 'Los Angeles' explodes from the speakers in guitar ROCK fashion. It doesn't have a chorus as such, but it does have a lovely Pixies strummed guitar effect in the mellow sections of the song. 'I Heard Ramona Sing' reveals a few Brian Wilson lyrical influences with the seemingly banal nature of such throwaway ( but still brilliant ) lines as 'I had so many problems, so I got me a walkman'. Two tracks in and we aren't exactly removed from the style of The Pixies, although 'I Heard Ramona Sing' clearly has more lavish production. Speaking of Brian Wilson, Frank covers The Beach Boys 'Hang On To Your Ego' in an attempt to make the pop charts. It sounds horribly over-produced with little clear separation of the instrumentation although good guitar parts are still noticeable amongst the mess of noise. 'Fu Manchu' is better with little funky melody lines, great vocals and funny brilliantly quirky lyrics. 'Places Named After Numbers' ditches the guitar altogether for its slightly symphonic keyboard led introduction before moving into a sweetly played and beautifully touching ballad. 'Czar' comes closest to his old Pixies vocal style with an almost screaming performance. 'Old Black Dawning' is a perfect two minute song - the surf and strummed guitar returns, the production is rich and clear, there is attention to detail and all this within one two minute song. 'Ten Percenter' is a great demented performance from all involved and the song Pixies fans are most likely to immediately identify with.

    The second half of the album kicks off with the short delightfully Mexican 'Brackish Boy. 'Two Spaces' makes good use of 'Trompe Le Monde' contributor Eric Drew Feldmans keyboard lines. It's a song packed with melody, clever lyrics and some truly wonderful keyboard sounds. 'Tossed' is a rocking little instrumental, 'Parry The Wind High Low' a rocking little vocal and guitar workout! 'Adda Lee' opens with a mess of guitars but is actually one of the most beautiful songs Frank Black/Black Francis has ever written. I can't quite explain why, but I find this strangely touching and emotional. In a slightly similar vein is 'Every Time I Go Round Here', another slower song but another quality song still containing melody and still containing great vocals in particular. 'Don't Ya Rile Em' is a simple little happy guitar song with more effective keyboard lines mixed in. An inauspicious kind of song, much like the album as a whole which just hasn't been presented as being an overly serious work because of the Pixies thing. Fact is though, it's really just as good as much of The Pixies work, and is by no means a disappointing set of songs.

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    Readers Comments

    Middle aged wanabee hippy weegie@pookielife.fsnet.co.uk
    I brought this when it came out, coz I had a mate who kept on about the Pixies. Yes very good review, I had the tape in my car until it was stolen (the car that is) and have never seen it on sale in a record shop ever since. I think Ten Percenter is about Iggy Pop, although what I'm not sure. This record was very good at the time and still sounds very good.

    claws-on claws-on@o2.co.uk
    A fantastic album right from the opening chords of Los Angeles. Frank's voice is beautiful and sounds totally different from on Pixies' albums. Fantastic lyrics too "they got me feeling deluxe for just a couple of bucks" throwaway and hilarious. Adda Lee is about his mum who'd just died (I think) and it's downright loverly. Nice to see someone stick up for this album 'cause it got really mediocre reviews when it came out.


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    Teenager Of The Year 9 ( 1994 )
    Whatever Happened To Pong? / Thalassocracy / I Want To Live On An Abstract Plain / Calistan / The Vanishing Spies / Speedy Marie / Headache / Sir Rockaby / Freedom Rock / Two Reelers / Fiddle Riddle / Ole Mulholland / Frazer Eyes / I Could Stay Here Forever / The Hostess With The Mostest / Superbound / Big Red / Space Is Gonna Do Me Good / White Noise Maker / Pure Denizen Of The Citizens Band / Bad, Wicked, World / Pie In The Sky

    Frank ditches the goofy artwork, writes a huge pile of songs and makes his best album since 'Trompe Le Monde'. Twenty two songs, only one of them over four minutes in length. Now, that's what I call music! For a start, we get two totally awesome brief punk blasts of noise to open the record. 'Whatever Happened To Pong?' has wonderful guitar thrashes amid lots of noise. 'Thalassocracy' is the single most thrilling song he's been responsible for since 'Debaser' but it's only a minute and a half long. Ultimately it's a little too short, perhaps? Ah, well, it's sounds fucking great however long it is. And, these two minor gems are followed up by 'Abstract Plain', pure essence of Black! Frank Black, that is. A quintessential Black Francis/Frank Black song, with high soaring vocals, no shouting - but lots of melody. 'Calistan' is another mellow song but still has great guitar sounds, loads of great vocals and melodies, and it sends chills right through my spine. 'The Vanishing Spies' sounds slightly more laboured and certainly less special, although the vocals are still great, Frank is in fine voice here. 'Speedy Marie' is just as good as 'Calistan' and then 'Headache'. An almost perfect pop song, and no, I'm not kidding. Really, the start to this album is flawless. 'Sir Rockaby' moves far away from The Pixies - really mellow but still lots of lovely sounding guitar and a really rather fine Frank vocal. 'Freedom Rock' is the solitary song that tops four minutes. It's as demented as any Pixies song, almost as good too. 'MY NAME IS CHIP!!' and the guitars go all up and down, the dynamics.... 'AND I'M DIFFERENT, I DON'T CONFORM' and then the mellow Frank vocals return before the guitars bite in fury once again. Really, this is GREAT stuff. Sorry, I'll lay of the capital letters for the rest of this review :)

    Following this wonderful start, the remainder of the album is certainly less straightforward, although still containing moments to savour. 'Two Reelers' has a lovely keyboard section, 'Fiddle Riddle' may well be a piece of crap, but 'Ole Mulholland' picks things up again, no worries. 'Fazer Eyes' and 'I Could Stay Here Forever' have some nice vocals, 'Superbound' makes good use of Eric Drew Feldman's ( former Captain Beefheart man ) keyboard work, and it's another wonderful song. 'Big Red' is very jaunty melodically but with a whispered vocal. The very last five songs may well pass you by, completely. But, give them a try. 'White Noise Maker' has yet more fine vocals, 'Bad Wicked World' lots of guitars. It's good! So is this record, this album. I wouldn't really be able to say I understand any Pixies fan not liking this 'Teenager Of The Year' album as much as half of The Pixies catalogue. Really.

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    Readers Comments

    Chris letskillpopstars@hotmail.com
    I'm a big Pixies fan just getting into Frank's solo stuff and this has become one of my favourite albums of all time. It truly is something to be cherished, with only maybe 3 songs not quite up to standard, and none poor. My favourite is probably Calistan - poignant lyrics, amazing melody, arrangement and vocal performance. perfect pop/rock, as the vast majority of this marvel is. Recommended to anyone that likes guitar-led music of any form. It really is that good.

    Ryan Deemer burnedcarpenter@hotmail.com
    Since he started his solo career..Frank Black has only ventured forward into the galaxy..observing molecular chaos and seeing reverberations of pong from the atmosphere...I like thinking this is Franks Zen Arcade...just not as painful and broadcasting some sort of retro history of his teenage years....Perhaps someday people will pay attention to this album.....This album brings lyricism and music to some sort of mid 70's Enoish high glory....riding high above in observation of slacker rock that help juvinate a cynical culture to come.

    Vincent Jones Republic Of Ireland
    I just bought Teenager of the Year yesterday and i love this fuckin' album. The first half is perfect, then more slightly freaky things start happening to finish it off. I love it. Almost as much as i love the Beach Boy's Friends' album (i think i have a fascination with songs under 2 mins, no dragging it out). Thank you Mr. Black. I look forward to all your other albums!

    Ryan Deemer burnedcarpenter@hotmail.com
    I love this album!! Since it's release in 94, i've never grown tired of it. Brilliant guitars, brilliant vocals, it's flawless. This album may have received acclaim at the time, however, this guy has been mostly overlooked since he split 'the band'. It baffles me. I also believe that this album is as good as anything the pixies put out.


    The Cult Of Ray( 1996 )
    The Marsist / Men in Black / Punk Rock City / You Ain't Me / Jesus Was Right / I Don't Want to Hurt You / Mosh, Don't Pass the Guy / Kicked in the Taco / The Creature Crawling / The Adventure and the Resolution / Dance War / The Cult of Ray / The Last Stand of Shazeb Andleeb

    Frank departed 4AD records and re-emerged with this? Okay, so he couldn't keep it up forever. Still, some fine songs are here but mixed in with lesser songs as well. Opener, 'The Marsist' is suitably 'Frank Black' with some demented guitar sounds and a sci-fi theme. Sounds like David Bowie in places, but Frank sings this well - semi-pixies, really. 'Men In Black' would have made a great addition to the 'Men In Black' film soundtrack, don't you think? Better than Will Smith, in any case, although possibly not such a big hit.... Still, Frank sings 'I'M WATCHING MY BACK' and the song rolls along at pace very entertainingly. 'Punk Rock City' is actually the first real sign that all is not well with this album. The music is standard stuff, slow, mid-tempo. He sings, but lacks a certain something. It may be the fault of the lyrics, which are undistinguished to say the least. 'You Aint Me' is pretty entertaining though - a nice riff, a faster pace. The simple lyrics are still here, but this song works ok for me. 'Jesus Was Right' is a brief thrash but lacks either dynamics or power. 'I Don't Want To Hurt You' is a wonderful pop song that should have been a hit.

    The second half of the album kicks off with 'Mosh, Don't Pass The Guy' - a pretty pointless thrashing guitar instrumental. 'Kicked In The Taco' is a more entertaining two minute song with some nice guitar mixed in there somewhere. 'The Creature Crawling' is slow, and not at all funky, 'The Adventure And The Resolution' works as a musically more ambitious song structurally, but still lacks a little special magic and sparkle. Besides, it's another instrumental. It needed words. 'Dance War' is a totally forgettable guitar thrash, the title song picking up the quality a little - a proper song, goddamn! The second side of the album in fact, is nearly entirely poor, with the exception of one particular amazing little piece, weirdly titled 'The Last Stand Of Shazeb Andleeb'. It reminds me a little of the grace and splendour of the likes of 'Motorway To Rosswell' from The Pixes 'Trome Le Monde'. Still, even this isn't quite enough to save this album from being average work.

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    Readers Comments

    Hartley fdj1@yahoo.com
    I believe cult of ray was underated. you didnt even mention the actual song " cult of ray " which totally rocks!!! so you must not have actually listened to it that much. I am glad you took the time to write about frank , but you seem a little overly criticle at times. everything frank puts out is unique and interesting. They are not to be compared and re-compared to the pixies or anybody else. The man is a songwriting machine and I have yet to find to anyone who matches his songwriting creativity or his ability to craft those awesome bridges he writes, not to mention his incredible singing and guitar playing !!!

    Stannabis stanmichotte@wol.be
    I agree with Hartley, everybody should stop comparing Frank to the Pixies. Even if we can't say "death to the Pixies" anymore since their come-back is confirmed, Frank has his own style, his own guitar playing. I love the Pixies but don't forget Charles Thompson thinks the Pixies were just a joke ! I like the last song too. According to an interview read in a french magazine, Frank Black wrote this song after hearing the news. It's just the name of a man involved in a news fact that happened at the time he wrote the album...

    Ben
    the title track is amazing and creative , granted its not the best album but you've underated it dramatically, especially when giving teenager of the year a 9

    Phil nhl5000@hotmail.com
    this is a very under rated album. while i do agree with a lot of what is written about some of the mid tempo songs, even some of those grow on you. Kicked in the Taco is awesome.


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    Frank Black & The Catholics( 1998 )
    All My Ghosts / Back to Rome / Do You Feel Bad About It / Dog Gone / I Gotta Move / I Need Peace / King & Queen of Siam / Six Sixty Six / Solid Gold / Steak N' Sabre / Suffering / The Man Who Was Too Loud

    Frank assembled a regular band to surround him for the recording of this record, a group he christened The Catholics. The album was recorded live direct to two track in order to capture a raw, spontaneous feel in contrast to the more lavishly produced 'The Cult Of Ray'. Indeed, this album was recorded in a mere matter of days, no overdubs, just straight guitar, bass and drums. This approach works wonderfully for the most part, transforming relatively simple material that across the album as a whole makes for an exciting Rock n Roll record! 'All My Ghosts' which opens covers familiar Frank Black territory perhaps, but it's still a damn fine song, and the live feel suits this. We even get a guitar solo! 'Back To Rome' continues with the guitar assault, fluid yet distorted lines, mixed with riffing guitars and strong vocals. 'Do You Feel Bad About It' has strong vocal melodies and a good rhythm section performance. 'Dog Gone' is a slower song placed just right, at a time on the record where the relentless rock n roll guitars could get a little trying. They don't, because 'Dog Gone' appears before that happens! A nice ballad, with interesting lyrics. 'I Gotta Move' is a great little song with a good, rough guitar sound, backing vocals - strong melodies and of course, a live feel. 'I Need Peace' wraps up the first half of the album, five minutes of furious guitar performances, very enjoyable!

    'King And Queen Of Siam' is the first song here that sounds even remotely like his former band The Pixies, just something about the style of the guitars here. Thing is, half the album has passed, and to be honest - his former band has suddenly become just that, former, irrelevant to his new career. Magnificent though the early Frank Black records were, they did lean upon the style of his former band, only natural given that he wrote all of The Pixies song, bar the odd one or two. Anyway, after 'The King And Queen Of Siam' has ended rather un-memorably we get treated to the simple joy that is 'Six-Sixty-Six', a happy bouncy song that leans upon Fifties Rock n Roll and Country music forms. 'Solid Gold' is a return to riffing, dirty guitars - ominous bass through the introduction. Again, Frank gives what he can vocally, just as well as this song isn't particularly memorable, bar a wonderful guitar solo that sails through. 'Steak n Sabre' is enjoyable both for the guitar sound and the vocal performance, 'Suffering' a three minute guitar blast with more interesting, intriguing lyrics. And, Frank saves the best til last with 'The Man Who Was Too Loud', a wonderful song title for him! It opens with noticeable bass, soft guitars, a crystal clear vocal. Then the faster, riffing guitars kick in. Frank raises his game to match, great both vocally and lyrically and this is a nice end to a satisfying enough album. It's no work of art, but maybe Frank had gotten sick of creating 'art' and just wanted to have some fun?

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    Pistolero( 1999 )
    Bad Harmony / I Switched You / Western Star / Tiny Heart / You're Such A Wire / I Loved Your Brain / Smoke Up / Billy Radcliffe / So Hard To Make Things Out / Eighty Five Weeks / I Think I'm Starting To Lose It / I Want To Rock And Roll / Skeleton Man / So Bay

    For the second Catholics album, we have much the same idea as before, a quickly recorded set straight to two track. 'Bad Harmony' sets the tone, three minutes of Frank and guitars, 'I Switched You' opens with funky bass lines and a guitar playing above it all as Frank starts to sing. It's a good song, a proper song with a beginning, middle and end! 'Western Star' is another decent track, more guitars, a good raw live feel. A highlight arrives with 'Tiny Heart', a great Frank Black vocal performance, lots of rockin guitars! The band sound better second time around, more assured and confident of their role backing Frank than perhaps they were on the 'Frank Black And The Catholics' record. 'You're Such A Wire' is a softer song, crystal clear vocals, nice sounding, semi-country guitars. Well, not exactly country but plugged into to the past somehow, at least - that's how it sounds to me. The delightfully titled 'I Love Your Brain' is faster, punkier, the guitars louder, drums everywhere. It's good! 'Smoke Up' has yet another good Frank Black vocal performance with an assured, yet still raw, exciting musical backing. 'Billy Radcliffe' has some of the most interesting lyrics of the album so far, I love Franks little story songs.

    'So Hard To Make Things Out' opens with ominous sounding guitar, a slow grind of a groove - a five minute song that picks up pace to end in furious, thrashing guitar fashion with Frank spitting out the flood and torrent of words. Phew! In contrast, '85 Weeks' switches to acoustic guitar mode for a well played introduction before the bass comes in. Again, a semi-country, semi-folk feel. It suits him actually, allows the actual composition to fully come through. It's nice. 'I Think I'm Starting To Lose It' may have been a phrase certain people in the music press would have agreed with him on. Frank was being relegated to being a marginal figure, a former legend whose records were selling considerably less than they used to. Frank didn't openly express any concerns about record sales, just concentrated on the music. Besides, 'I Think I'm Starting To Lose It' is actually great, Frank starts to scream through the songs close, and it's exhilarating. Lose it? I don't think so :) 'I Want Rock & Roll' is a song whose title says it all, really - more furious and frantic guitars, another great performance captured direct to two track in the studio. 'Skeleton Man' is an interesting song lyrically, the closing 'So Bay' a five minute long song that following a quiet introduction explodes in a guitar frenzy. We still don't have any real classic Frank Black songs here on 'Pistolero' but what is here is all decent stuff, consistently enjoyable - and this is a quality piece of work.

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    Readers Comments

    Cary dsmpc@aol.com
    What's a "proper song" other than one "with a beginning, middle and end." That's complete nonsense, who cares? Where is the rule book that says songs must all have the same format and structure? 'Western Star' is another "decent track"? Actually, its one of the smoother rock songs they have done, featuring some sultry vocals, raw lyrics and truly fine and dynamic guitar work from a living, breathing guitar virtuoso. I do agree with you on "I Love Your Brain', its simply damn good I also agree on 'Smoke Up' great vocal, raw emotional pain. Agree on 'Billy Radcliffe' great lyrics and story. I don't get your comment that "We still don't have any real classic Frank Black songs here on 'Pistolero'" What are "classic" Frank songs? Its a pretty consistent and enjoyable album, I agree on that point. The album is a classic and is an 8 or 8 and 1/2 in my book.

    markel sramonz salmonsm@missouri.edu
    I have to agree with the comments about Pistolero, I think it's a leap forward from "Catholics". So Cal is not only a guitar frenzy, it's a fascinating peek into Black's Jeckyll/Hyde persona- his music can be alternately sweet and biting. The justaposition is pushed to the extreme in this song. Awesome!


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    Dog In The Sand( 2000 ) more best albums...
    Blast Off / I've Seen Your Picture / St Francis Dam Disaster / Robert Onion / Stupid Me / Bullet / The Swimmer / Hermaphroditos / I'll Be Blue / Llano Del Rio / If It Takes All Night / Dog In The Sand

    Here we have a handful of classic Frank Black songs! For maybe the first time since 'Teenager Of The Year' Frank pens a damn great tune or two rather than a bunch of pleasantly decent songs and some filler. We still have a bunch of filler here, take opener 'Blast Off' for example. This would be a perfectly fine three minute song but it's been dragged out to a seven minute length repeating lyrics, musical sections. It's called 'Blast Off' but it's not really appropriately titled at all. 'I've Seen Your Picture' is more softly softly, rather dreary to be honest and so far so bad for this 'Dog In The Sand' album, but things quickly get much better. 'St Francis Dam Disaster' is better! Lovely vocal, lovely guitar and attention to detail. A banjo appears and it sounds great! The lyrics are fascinating, and yeah, great!! 'Robert Onion' is always on the verge of exploding, in the best possible way. It includes some truly great guitar 'work' and is one of the finest singles Frank has released post Pixies. 'Stupid Me' isn't at all the sound of The Pixies, or previous solo records either for that matter. A dip into Fifties love songs? A high, quite beautiful vocal and an exotic musical atmosphere that sounds so wonderful it's hard to credit it was recorded live straight to two-track. 'Bullet' opens with shifting guitars, drums, Frank laughs and you do, too. Sounds like everybody is having fun, as well they might - this is another fine song.

    Side two opens badly, as did side one. 'The Swimmer' goes absolutely nowhere, although it does feature good playing. 'Hermaphroditos' is made entirely by the slightly eccentric lyrical and vocal content. 'I'll Be Blue' is rather ponderous, but the Piano is nice, the vocal very accomplished. Some of Franks finest ever vocals are on this album, thinking about it. Sure, he's not the screaming demon of Pixies yore, but the man can certainly sing. 'Llano Del Rio' could almost have come from 'Come On Pilgrim', which is weird. Well, this song certainly isn't as 'wired' as 'Come On Pilgrim' but it's just possibly a better song than much of 'Come On Pilgrim'. What was that? Disbelief? Has this reviewer gone insane? Answer? No. Let's carry on. Piano and riffing guitars are a feature of the fun 'If It Takes All Night' and the closing title song is slow, beautiful..... No classic, but it's nice. A couple of songs here probably are classics though. 'Robert Onion' would be one. Either 'St Francis Dam Disaster' or 'Llano Del Rio' would be another, or possibly both. 'Dog In The Sand'? I'll take a bit of that, thanks. You should, too.

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    tony souza avsouza@webtv.net
    While on tour, Black was listening to a lot of late '60's, early '70's music - specifically the Stones and Dylan - and this album came out of that. Which is kind of ironic - Black is known for pioneering some of the modern rock sound and here he is doing a roots-rock record, although with Black's distinctive style. I agree with the rating, although I like "Blast Off" and "I've Seen Your Picture" a lot more than you do and "Stupid Me" a lot less. "Dog in the Sand" took awhile for me to get into, but now it's one of my favorites on here. Black's singing is indeed underrated and it's good to see him return to the different vocal styles that he exhibited on Frank Black and Teenager of the Year. Good use of pedal steel guitar throughout the album.


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    Black Letter Days( 2002 )
    The Black Rider / California Bound / Chip Away Boy / Cold Heart Of Stone / Black Letter Day / Valentine And Garuda / How You Went So Far / End Of Miles / 1826 / The Farewell Bend / Southbound Bevy / I Will Run After You / True Blue / Jane The Queen Of Love / Jet Black River / 21 Reasons / Whispering Weeds / The Black Rider

    Person one : Frank has gone acoustic? This is almost folk music!
    Person two : Folk music? Cool!
    Person three : Fuck that, i'm off to listen to 'Surfer Rosa'.

    So, which person are you? Yeah, Frank has gone 'roots', if not exactly Folk music. In fact, he hasn't really gone 'roots' either, but these are mellow, sometimes acoustic songs. A few Rock n Roll numbers mixed in, for sure. But, if you fall into the 'Person three' category, you might like to check out 'Devil's Workshop' instead. Really, if you're any kind of Frank Black fan ( as opposed to a curious Pixies fan ) you'll want to get both. This isn't the finest Frank Black solo record. It could be viewed as a further 'retreat' from the sound of The Pixies, but then, who were they? It's been YEARS since they released their last record! It's not really even relevant to this conversation we're having here! Yes, that's right, conversation! One word of warning, even if you dig acoustic, semi-folky music, it'll take a while to get used to Frank doing this sort of thing. Especially as these still are Frank Black songs, they aren't based on anything else, his usual character shines through, given appropriate time. His usual sound is on display on the two tracks that bookend this album, a version of a Tom Waits song. It sounds nice, it's certainly a great song, but it doesn't really connect to the rest of this record. Still, 'California Bound' and 'Chip Away Boy' are both ultra lovely songs, fine examples of songwriting and both well performed. 'Cold Heart Of Stone' includes acoustic, yeah. It also includes bass, drums and electric embellishments. The lyrics are great, the song is pretty good. Rock n Roll returns for the title song, Frank Black and the Catholics by numbers, slightly. Only slightly - this works as well as a good Frank Black song should. Strong start to this album, actually.

    A lot of songs here. A few too many, to be truthful. Still, we aint got a fifteen track album missing the two irrelevant 'Black Rider' songs, and also missing maybe 'Jane The Queen Of Love'. We've got this instead, simple as that. Special mention for a few songs here. 'Valentine & Garuda' is a lovely semi-acoustic track featuring pedal steel, acoustic, electric, Piano. It sounds well arranged, thought through. It also features lovely vocals and attractive lyrics and sounds! 'Southbound Bevy' is gorgeous, plain and simple. Frank sings in a soft falsetto, almost a whisper. Hang on, falsetto? Whisper? Those things don't add together, I know. Maybe not falsetto then, but it sounds better than just 'high' or something. '21 Reasons' opens just Frank and acoustic but builds into a full group performance. Five minutes long, not a single one of them less than enjoyable. It's assured, confident, mature. Mature, that's right! Still, the lyrics are great, Frank and band provide a great performance full of energy even if the song isn't a ROCK guitar assault or anything. Highlights over. Well, the other songs are okay, nothing special, nothing terrible. The album works though. It's a rather plesant, reassuring listen once you've got over the lack of screaming and soaring guitar/vocals. It's a fine piece of work, although by no means an awe-inspiring kind of an album. I rather don't feel that it was intended to be, though.

    Please note : this review was recorded 'live' direct to two track.

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    Readers Comments

    SiDeSaulle@hotmail.com
    Possibly his best! 71/2? Changed your mind yet? It takes a few listenings...

    Jamesey New Jersey
    his is one of Frank Black's greatest works. I give it a 9 only because some of the tracks in the middle fall off a tad. Right off the bat black rider, california bound, chip away boy, and cold heart of stone, and black letter days are instant classics and beautiful songs all around. These songs are as good if not better than ANY Pixies songs. He has matured as a artist so what if there is a folk or Americana feel. They are just great songs! Great music, great rock, great punk, great lyrics. How do you give this album a 7 1/2? Are you crazy?


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    Devil's Workshop 7 ( 2002 )
    Velvety / Out Of State / His Kingly Cave / San Antonio, Tx / Bartholomew / Modern Age / Are You Headed My Way / Heloise / The Scene / Whiskey In Your Shoes / Fields Of Marigold

    Apparently, according to certain press reports, this second new Frank Black record is a return to a Pixies vibe. Well, let's see now. 'Velvety' should be a good test, it's an old Pixies b-side after all. It's been given lyrics here, it was originally an instrumental. And? Well, it doesn't sound at all like The Pixies, and it's a bloody Pixies song! Joey plays extra guitar on it, The Pixies guitar player! And it STILL doesn't sound like The Pixies! Parts of 'Dog In The Sand' DID sound like The Pixies, a couple of those charming semi-mexican type things, almost without even trying. 'Velvety' is still good, by the way, in case you were wondering. It does have a rock 'n' roll energy about it! 'Out Of State' is a better song than 'Velvety' though, more mellow, but a better song. Two and a half minutes long, and I really dig the guitar solo here. 'His Kingly Cave' has great Frank Black lyrics, even if the music is rather standard Frank Black stuff. That's a problem here, actually. Recording two albums together so quickly has resulted in 'Devil's Workshop' almost coming across as an afterthought. Like, "god, people are gonna have a tough time with the mellow stuff on 'Black Letter Days', so let's make a Rock n Roll album! Do it" - that simple. Best song on the entire record for me personally is 'San Antionio Tx' - which I woke up this morning having dreamt of it, or something. Couldn't get it out of my brain all day! It's a great Frank Black song, packed full of melody and interesting lyrics and changes. 'Bartholomew' keeps up a high standard, Frank sounds wired, more fascinating lyrics, more decent guitar parts. It's nothing new whatsoever, we've heard this kind of thing from Frank Black before more than once, but it's just done so well you can hardly complain too much. 'Modern Age' has a hugely enjoyable guitar introduction and for a second, you can understand those Pixies comparisons. Frank isn't screaming any more of course, those days are long gone, but this is a genuinely great Frank Black song. I dig this a lot.

    The second half of the album runs out of steam for me. 'Are You Headed My Way' has neat guitar parts, but sometimes neat guitar parts alone aren't enough. 'Heloise' sounds like a dozen other Frank Black and the Catholics songs, Frank sounds like Frank, nothing unusual, nothing surprising. It's not bad, actually - but I wanted more than this. It took me a long time to appreciate 'Black Letter Days' - the acoustic and/or more mellow vibe of that record throwing me completely initially. On the otherhand, 'Devils Workshop' threw me because it just sounded so regular, so much like Frank Black of the past, even if we're only talking the past three or four years. I've listened to 'Devils Workshop' plenty of enough times now to really like certain songs, 'San Antionio' and 'Barthlolomew' especially, but much else of what's here simply doesn't add anything to the career of Frank Black. It's still enjoyable, the playing is still good, the songs are still good songs, if not always terribly interesting. So? 'The Scene' opens with a blast of guitars, nice little bass runs, switches for a moment and then becomes just a regular Frank Black song. Well played, well performed - but lacking a little sparkle. Lacking something to make your hairs stand on end, or your mouth move in wide upwards direction. It's pleasant, it's pleasing. It's guitar based Rock music. It's not The Pixies, but that doesn't matter. Frank hasn't 'been' The Pixies for over ten years now. People still talk about The Pixies of course, even if a portion of Frank Black fans actually prefer his solo stuff. It's true. As for 'Devils Workshop', it's a decent enough record. I can't really complain about it. It's nice, a few good songs, but that's pretty much it.

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    Readers Comments

    Tom C tom_cavanaugh2003@yahoo.com
    I agree with your comments about this album. After thoroughly enjoying "Black Letter Days," "Devil's Workshop" was such a let down. It seemed half-finished to me. I'm just now making my way through the The Catholics catalogue, and recently I just bought their first CD, which more than makes up for DW. When Frank and his band are on, there's no one out there who is better. Great lyrics, great melodies, just an overall rock blast!


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    Show Me Your Tears 8 ( 2003 )
    Nadine / Everything Is New / My Favourite Kiss / Jaina Blues / New House Of The Pope / Horrible Day / Massif Centrale / When Will Happiness Find Me Again? / Goodnight Lorraine / The Old Heartache / The Snake / Coastline / Manitoba

    Please don't confuse this record as a follow-up to 'Devil's Workshop' because it's very much a follow-up to 'Black Letter Days' instead. Perhaps this confirms my suspicion that 'Devil's Workshop' was a quickly put together after-thought, with Frank unsure of his fans reaction to his new direction(s). So? Well, for 'Show Me Your Tears' Frank moves ever further into the world of country music, continues with his current mellow roots trip and works in a few Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash things as well. May as well start with the best songs first, because both 'Nadine' and 'New House Of The Pope' are real winners in our house. 'Nadine' is the loud noise trip, the only such moment on the entire album, actually. Still, it builds and builds, the guitar goes supernova - stupendous song. 'New House Of The Pope' proves that Frank has been listening to 'Ballad Of A Thin Man' by Bob Dylan, but we'll allow him that. He takes that opening riff elsewhere and this is powerful, ominous stuff. Frank sounds suitably weary and whiskey filled, although I doubt he actually was. At a certain point, when a jazzy piano arrives, the song turns round a little, changes - whilst still sounding exactly the same as it did before. That doesn't make sense, I realise, but I do love this little jazzy piano section in the middle of the song. Ah, 'Show Me Your Tears' initially sounds like a very inauspicious set of recordings, but eventually, the care that's obviously gone behind the songs arrangements shines through. Seemingly simple throwaway material such as 'Horrible Day' gets under your skin, and the supporting cast do a fine job with the musical backing. This supporting cast includes, as well as yer regular Catholics crew, the inevitable Joey Santiago cameo, Eric Drew Feldman, Van Dyke Parks, saxophone, trumpet and additional guitar.

    'Massif Centrale' sees Frank twist his vocals most enjoyably as a strong bass sound rumbles around him, 'Goodbye Lorraine' is very country, as are a couple of other songs here. Not sure if a move towards almost pure country is such a good move, although Frank and The Catholics perform the material suitably well. 'The Snake' is a very typical Catholics number, 'Coastline' a brief sub two minute acoustic song with very lovely harmonica. It's a great, simple song. A song with beauty to match the highlights of 'Black Letter Days' easily. 'Show Me Your Tears' wins slightly over 'Black Letter Days', the other Frank Black album to which it most compares, because it's an easier, more consistent listen. Ah, switching back to what I said at the start, about 'Nadine' and 'New House Of The Pope'? Add the closing four and a half minute long 'Manitoba' to that 'best song' list. It's another slightly weary sounding tune, but gorgeous with it. The detail in the songs arrangement, added to the occasional guitar rising through, added to the chorus. The chorus is pure gold, repeated and repeated, "I have seen the face of god / And I have dearly paid" sings Frank, the harmonica and melodica, trumpet and lord knows what else all play a part. We needed a good closing number here actually. We needed one. A strong opener with 'Nadine', a strong closing song with 'Manitoba'. It turns this more into 'an album' rather than a bunch of songs. Sometimes with Frank, it seems he's just putting out a bunch of songs, rather than albums. 'Show Me Your Tears' is cohesive, it's a damn fine album, but give it a little time, please? Thank you.

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    Readers Comments

    ritchie158@aol.com
    Nice reviews! I am a big fan of all of Frank Blacks work. To follow him from the Pixies to his new work is a big twist. You kinda lose some and gain some. I wish he can put out something that is right in the middle of Teenager of the year, Doolittle, and Dog in the Sand. That would be a challenge. So many different instruments in those records to work with. The problem with that though is that I think most of his work is actually pretty simple, but brilliant! And I think thats his best way. So making it too complex might make it bad. I do long for some newer writting of the earlier times of Frank Blacks jammin days. Anyways, I am just glad he is still writting. Thanks for the cool reviews. I enjoyed them..

    Gdog
    This album grows on you. After 4 or 5 listens its a great album. Sorry for the blasphemy, but it's second to Doolittle in my book.

    josh smijp@email.uc.edu
    I appreciate the reviews; I felt they were insightful. I've been following the Pixies/Frank Black since college, and have been fortunate to see him live in each of his "roles" (black francis, Frank Black, Frank Black & the Catholics). Personally, I think each of his albums offers something new to consider and appreciate, although some are appreciably easier to initially appreciate than others. Which brings me to this album, which is an absolute classic in my opinion, a great follow-up to his work on "Black Letter Days". To be honest, I've become so enamored with his FB&C stuff that I hope he elects to continue moving in this direction, regardless of any Pixies reunion...


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    Frank Black Francis( 2004 )
    Holiday Song / I'm Amazed / Rock a My Soul / Isla de Encanta / Caribou / Broken Face / Build High / Nimrod's Son / Ed Is Dead / Subbacultcha / Boom Chickaboom / I've Been Tired / Break My Body / Oh My Golly / Vamos / Caribou / Where Is My Mind? / Cactus / Nimrod's Son / Levitate Me / Wave of Mutilation / Monkey Gone to Heaven / Velouria / Holiday Song / Into the White / Is She Weird? / Subbacultcha / Planet of Sound

    Disc one, which runs through pre-pixies demo versions of, a-hem, popular Pixies classics! That disc isn't particularly the reason anybody but the most hardcore of Pixies fan needs to buy this. True, it is fascinating hearing these early versions, hearing that the songs were pretty much fully formed before Frank and his Pixie friends entered the studio. Fascinating, but not something you're likely to listen to very often. No, the reason anybody needs to get this is disc two, a collection of radical reworkings of Pixies classics. With rumours that The Pixies will be entering a studio next year to record a new album, with Frank Black's reapproachment of Black Francis and his former band, these reworkings lend for interesting speculation. In places, it sounds like Frank is auditioning for Tom Waits. We've all heard that rumour, right? That Tom Waits will produce the next Pixies album? Well, this is just my playing mischeif, i'm sure that's not the reason for the brass band, for the sparse, spaceys reworkings, for the odd instrumentation. The brass works brilliantly on the otherwise totally stripped down 'Nimrod's Sun'. Rather than an aggressive shout, as of yore, the song becomes a spooky, ghostly mid-tempo number that sounds like a brass band are playing in a capsule somewhere in outerspace. Ah, but yes! This is the great part, without any screaming or usual Pixies noise, this new version of 'Nimrods Sun' is actually a lot scarier than the Pixies original. There are other new versions here we can say exactly the same about, I just really like this new 'Nimrods Sun' in particular.

    'Velouria' becomes the love song it always was, albeit a love song that sounds like the kind of love song a man on the electric chair might sing, just as he's going under.... the previously two minute long noise-fest 'Planet Of Sound' is now a full nineteen minutes long. Yes, it's heavy going - yet also, almost like a 'Sister Ray' / Lou Reed interpretation of the original. Whatever actually does happen with The Pixies reunion, let's hope Frank Black ( Francis ) takes the spirit of creativity and adventure this somewhat strange new release displays into any new Pixies song he may happen to write and record.

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    Honeycomb 7 ( 2005 )
    Selkie Bride / I Burn Today / Lone Child / Another Velvet Nightmare / Dark End Of The Street / Go Find Your Saint / Song Of The Shrimp / Strange Goodbye / Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove / Honeycomb / My Life Is Strange / Atom In My Heart / Violet / Sing For Joy

    Frank gets together with a bunch of season session musicians more used to soul music than mexican whores, on the eve of Frank re-uniting with The Pixies. They record a bunch of originals with a few choice covers smattered in, too. We've a little soul and a little country, a bunch of relaxed tunes played in quiet, assured fashion. Several surprises appear along the way, the excellent 'Strange Goodbye' which opens with female country vocals. Initially, you wonder whether it's actually Frank Black in falsetto mode, but its not. He comes in, then they sing together. It's a lovely little upbeat tune, very nice. The cover of the famous 'Dark End Of The Street' isn't better than the Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons version, but it is taken so very relaxed, Frank sings sweetly. It's good. The final track, 'Sing For Joy' is a little rough in the vocal department, but it's an interesting song, lyrically. Eccentric cover, 'Song Of The Shrimp' has a little groove about it. I dunno, it's strange. The entire album is a million miles away from Frank of the past, although he has shown country influences before, of course. Never throughout an entire album, though. And although nothing here is ever less than accomplished and the record as a whole is so very easy to listen to.... I personally find it a little dull. True, there are special moments. I adore 'Lone Child', the way his vocal fades out. 'I Burn Today' is one of the catchiest moments, a strong chorus and a song with a typical Frank Black storytelling feel.

    'Go Find Your Saint' has a wonderful feel to it and Frank continues to surprise throughout his career, never taking the obvious easy route and rarely fulfilling fans expectations. He did it with the 'Frank Black Francis' record and he does it here. Neither record is amongst his best work for me, though. This is the stronger of the two and both are entirely different to each other of course, yet neither will be seen as much more than as a footnote in the history of Frank Black/Black Francis. With rumours of a new Pixies album proper, with Pixies songs such as Bam Thowk created out of found lyrics and a few rehearsal sessions, interest appears to be slim for a new Frank Black solo record. Nice as this record is, with songs such as the fascinating 'My Life Is In Storage' appearing right through to the end of this actually very consistent set of songs, you yearn for a little more variety, something darker and more biting from the pen of Frank Black. Still, hats off to the guy for not giving a damn what anybody thinks of him and for making music for himself, primarily. It's the sign of a true artist.

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    Readers Comments

    george Jrecklin@aol.com
    I think this may be my favorite FB album, which is saying a lot as I am a big fan. It takes several spins to fully appreciate. Good Stuff 9/10.

    Roger Smith jollyolroger@msnmail.com
    I heard song of the shrimp one day on the college station abd was blown away.Had to have that cd.I'm a big fan of Stan Ridgeway,though so that might explain it.

    Bartholomew st@earthlink.net
    I could not agree with you more about the ordinariness of this set of songs. It took me a few listens, but I contend this may be Black's best song writing effort ever. It is not a hit you over the head effect but takes us mere mortals some time to pick up on the sophistication and grace of this record. I would urge you to give this a few more spins and check back

    dan justto_haveone@hotmail.com
    Black Francis always keeps you surprised: this album either makes you yearn for more and yearn for less cheesy Frank Black music, or fits your mood just right since there's nothing "wrong" with it really. Just another list of tracks by Black, and it's not so fulfilling to me (I won't listen to it too much); but I love Black, and he keeps his work.

    PoisonPiet Johannesburg
    I was quite shocked when I listened to this album for the first time and heard my hero, Frank Black, the screaming Pixies frontman, transformed into a mellowed unenthusiastic vocalist whispering through songs that sounds like it would be right at home inside an elevator. It's a good thing I gave this album a 2nd chance. It's one of those albums that doesn't want to come out of my stereo and is definetely one of my favorite Frank Black album.


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    Fastman Raiderman( 2006 )
    If Your Poison Gets You / Johnny Barleycorn / Fast Man / You Can't Crucify Yourself / Dirty Old Town / Wanderlust / Seven Days / Raider Man / End Of The Summer / Dog Sleep / When The Paint Grows Darker Still / I'm Not Dead (I'm In Pittsburgh) / Golden Shore / In The Time Of My Ruin / Down To You / Highway To Lowdown / Kiss My Ring / My Terrible Ways / Fitzgerald / Elijah / It's Not Just Your Moment / Real El Ray / Where The Wind Is Going / Holland Town / Sad Old World / Don't Cry That Way / Fare Thee Well

    It’s an odd duel career for Frank Black at the moment. Solo records and tours sitting alongside Pixies tours. I guess if recent reports are true, we’ll never see another Pixies record as Frank has admitted to struggling to write in that idiom. Well, we all grow and change, don’t we? Judging by Fastman/Raiderman, there’s certainly nothing here out of twenty seven songs that’s remotely resembling a Pixies type composition. You could stick ‘Pixies’ on a bunch of songs and it would sell, but there’s other things to consider and a reputation worth preserving. None of this means that ‘Fastman/Raiderman’ is a weak release and the songs rubbish. Whilst ‘Fasman/Raiderman’ has received lukewarm reviews at best, for any professional critic to assimilate twenty seven songs and then write about them to deadline? Perhaps ‘Fastman/Raiderman’ is an album a listener needs to live with for awhile to get anywhere close to discovering what’s here. So, what’s here? Well, Frank continues down the path of using renowned session musicians with which he seemingly has little in common and recording a batch of mellow roots-tinged songs. Whilst ‘Honeycomb’ never quite did it for me personally, ‘Fastman/Raiderman’ is better thanks to sheer quantity. Twenty Seven songs? He’s spoiling us really and whilst of course we can all say it would have been better trimmed of a few songs, I’m not sure if that’s really the case. As a double album, this has a reason to exist. It immediately differentiates this from other recent Frank Black solo records. A single CD, whilst arguably being easier to immediately get into, would have been seen as a repeat of ‘Honeycomb’ and we’d all be searching for obvious standout cuts. Neither ‘Fastman’ nor ‘Raiderman’ have songs that instantly jump at you as clear highlights. Repeated listening embeds a good two-thirds of these tunes into your soul, and that’s more than enough for me.

    I’ll provide an approximation of the entire twenty seven track album by discussing the first three songs. The opening tune sounds nothing like an opening tune, it just lazily swims into view. Once the chorus gets going, ‘If Your Poison Gets You’ turns out to be the decent tune that it is. It’s mellow, the bass lines do what they should and Frank turns in a fine vocal. ‘Johnny Barleycorn’ is less welcome, never really getting going then ‘Fastman’ arrives as one of the best tunes of the lot. Frank gets his falsetto into gear, sings very sweetly then piano lines mix with the soft-rock and strummed acoustics. So, whilst the first and third tunes sport fine vocals and decent tunes, the 2nd seems rather aimless and Frank’s vocal also fails to hit the spot, sounding pretty rough and ragged. All three tunes are firmly mid-tempo in pace. I can understand certain fans and critics switching off or falling asleep waiting for a tasty solo or a little ROCK action, but then it’s not really that kind of an album. Despite the ratio of 1 bad song for every 2 good songs, that’s not a poor ratio when we’re talking about an album that’s twenty seven songs in total. The 2nd disc for example offers up several fine songs, ones that pop into my head include ‘Elijah’ and a splendid unpretentious song, properly constructed, in ‘It’s Just Not Your Moment’ . There’s an efficient solo and a very cool outro. The last couple of tunes see Frank utilize the old pedal steel and country sounds yet the likes of ‘Fare Thee Well’ aren’t as straight as they first seem. All in all, clearly this mammoth two CD set isn’t particularly easy or welcoming. Too many songs initially appear to begin in the same tempo with the exact same drum pattern ushering them all in. I would probably enjoy Frank more working with younger or just different musicians able to bring something new to the equation artistically. Well, The Catholics had their run of course, but it’s always good to try and stretch yourself, isn’t it?

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    93-03 9 ( 2007 )
    Los Angeles / Ten Percenter / Czar / Old Black Dawning / I Want to Live on an Abstract Plain / Calistan / Speedy Marie / Headache / Freedom Rock / Men in Black / You Ain’t Me / I Don't Want to Hurt You (Every Single Time) / All My Ghosts / I Gotta Move / Bad Harmony / Western Star / Robert Onion / Hermaphroditos / Velvety / California Bound / Massif Centrale / Manitoba / Threshold Apprehension

    This album is for you. If you've ever wondered what the fuss was about The Pixies and remained lukewarm about them, buy this. If you delved into The Pixies but followed the general consensus that the mans solo career wasn't really worth bothering with, well, bother with this. If you are a 'proper' Frank Black/The Pixies fan and have most of the mans output, well, initial copies of this best of contain a bonus disc of solo live tracks. Not enough? The main disc contains a brand new song 'Threshold Appreciation' and it's good. Plus, this is a wonderful listen anyway as we see Frank go from newly ex-pixie to seasoned solo campaigner. He's released so many solo tunes now that we could conceivably have a vol 2 and a vol 3 should demand allow, which it probably won't, but nevermind that for a moment. 'Threshold Apprehension' is something of a bonus track and is to be released under the name Black Francis, which will be enough on its own to get long term Pixies followers excited. It's the most demented the man has sounded for quite some time, too. Keep watching this space for the release of 'Bluefinger' by Black Francis later this year. I don't really need to write a lot about this release, except to say often the only differences between Frank Black and The Pixies is the sound. The Pixies had some special telepathy between the band members which is absent here and they also had Charles Thompson / Black Francis / Frank Black screaming at the top of his lungs. No or little screaming to be found in the great mans solo career.

    The songs from the first three solo records, tracks one to twelve form approximately half of this compilation and also provide the most highlights. I think it's easier from that period to pick clear highpoints and that it becomes more subjective on the latter solo albums. On those latter solo records we do get some gems that have made their way to this compilation though, of course. 'Robert Onion' is a fine thing, a song that keeps you on the edge as it resolutely fails to devolve ( if that's the right word ) into a base Pixies style Nirvana inventing stomper. It just rolls along and keeps you tense. 'Dog In The Sand' was a fine album, not sure about choosing 'Hermaphroditos' over, say, 'St Francis Dam Disaster' but what can you do? 'Velvety' is another semi-aggressive track packed with melody, 'California Bound' is an example of the mans late move into country inflected waters and only goes to show what a good songwriter the man has been all along, in case you were doubting. What else? Well, let's appreciate 'Threshold Apprehension' again, a storming track with a stop/start riff, demented vocal parts, a proper chorus and more besides. Ah, still more to offer.

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    Black Francis : Bluefinger 9 ( 2007 )
    Captain Pasty / Threshold Apprehension / Test Pilot Blues / Lolita / Tight Black Rubber / Angels Come To Comfort You / Your Mouth Into Mine / Discotheque 36 / You Can't Break A Heart And Have It / She Took All The Money / Bluefinger

    The name change, I guess, is significant. If the 93-03 compilation drew a line under Frank Black, the reunion of The Pixies, and now a solo album as Black Francis, is cause for celebration. The optimist is hoping for a fully blown new Pixies album ( at some stage ) but only if it's good enough. Judging by the fantastic 'Bluefinger', it would be good enough, but now we have a revitalized Black Francis/Frank Black solo, a new studio Pixies seems somewhat irrelevant. This is a return to top-notch form. No doubt touring with his fantastic fellow Pixies has seen Charles try and get back into that idiom, to some respect. True, 'Bluefinger' is a million miles removed from his more recent Nashville/Country influenced material. It's a tidy thirty-nine minutes long, which is also a departure from releasing hour long or two hour long solo records as Frank Black, lately.

    So, what is 'Bluefinger' actually like? Well, he screams again on a few tunes! He mixes things up with proper, melodic songs. Every single song is a winner, for different reasons. It's funny what I wrote actually at the end of my 'Fast Man/Raider Man' review, wishing for him to work with some different musicians. He does so here, just a tight, garage rock kind of band, but there's some talent here, too. Don't know who the musicians are, but Charles Thompson/Black Francis himself is center to all of the songs. His guitar playing, which with added Joey would totally resemble latter day Pixies. The vocals, i've already touched upon, but let's take the first couple of songs here. 'Captain Pasty' immediately gets the juices flowing with a tasty, addictive and bendy guitar line, clattering drums and a rush of speedy vocals. We've a strong chorus and two and a half minutes of 'song'. Perfect. The five minute long 'Threshold Appreciation' is the most Pixies-like the man has been for some time, screaming and yelling, stop/starting and more besides.

    'Lolita' and 'Tight Black Rubber' are both surpreme. 'Lolita' has been spinning around my head for days and days, just like the good old days going back to 'Bossanova', 'Trompe Le Monde' and the first couple of solo albums. It's hard to describe, let's just say the guitar is wonderful to listen to. This isn't by the way, a screamer. It's like those songs you'd find on 'side b' of Pixies albums that would take a few listens to get into, but eventually never leave you. Excellent harmonica solo, incidentally. 'Tight Black Rubber' is very nearly as good and features it's amazing, it works! it's amazing it works! HA!! as the tension builds into the chorus. The second half of the album is just as good, by the way but I don't want to go too overboard here, although I probably already have done. Let's just say 'Your Mouth Into Mine' is a tune better than the first two Frank Black and the Catholics albums put together, all by itself. Going overboard? Well, i'm a fan and i'm exicited again. That's enough of a defence for me, isn't it?

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    Black Francis : Svn Fngrs 8 ( 2008 )
    The Seus / Garbage Heap / Half Man / I Sent Away / Seven Fingers / The Tale Of Lonsesome Fetter / When They Come To Murder Me

    A twenty minute, seven song EP or mini-album if you will, from Black Francis / Frank Black. It's almost like he really is auditioning himself for the role of chief songwriter in his own band, The Pixies. Well, perhaps. That's one of the less favourable ways his return to his 'Pixies' name has been met with. Doesn't bother me what he calls himself and this 'Svn Fngrs' is a nice little release. 'The Seus' has Captain Beefheart rhythms throughout the verses, a nice memorable chorus featuring 'itty bitty baby' as one of the phrases and after a couple of choruses builds to a tremendous harmonica part. The lyrics for 'The Seus' are fantastically surreal and marvellous and for 'The Seus' alone, 'Svn Fngrs' is a must addition for any fan of the mans music. 'I Sent Away' has a fantastic energetic and manic atmosphere among an addictive yet oh so simple guitar riff of intent. 'Half Man' has great Black Francis falsetto, the near title track is a two minute mexican flavoured romp. Well, kind of Mexican if you cross your eyes, close your mind and think of Mexico. It's also another great song on an EP, and I will call it an EP, without any weak points. Why not give us a full album Frank?

    'The Tale Of Lonesome Fetter' is classic Frank Black / Black Francis and for future reviews, I just wish he would stick to one name. Pixies. Haha. Not funny? It's the sheer stupidity of music critics that would slate these same seven songs ( and some still do ) if they had 'Pixies' written on them. Some, also slate them because they don't have 'Pixies' written on them. To be fair to Charles, he's gone through lots of different musical flavours in his solo career, more recently, the nashville country material that didn't quite capture the publics imagination. All he needs to do is write another 'Debaser'. Yet, we already have 'Debaser'. No point in a Pixies reunion that steps back in time stylistically some eighteen years or so. 'Svn Fingers' is a release that should but won't cause a stir, because how often do we get a release where seven great songs are contained within it?

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    Grand Duchy : Petits Fours 7 ( 2009 )
    Come Over To My House / Lovesick / Fort Wayne / Seeing Stars / Black Suit / Long Song / Break The Angels / Ermesinde / Volcano

    Frank Black and Violet Clark are Grand Duchy. Frank Black is Black Francis was a member of the legendary 'Pixies' band and Violet Clark is his wife. No, don't run away, they've gone into the studio under the name Grand Duchy and released 'Petits Fours' which is kind of a cross between Frank Black solo, Kim Deal Breeders and, weirdly enough, The Pixies. They also sound more or less upto date, including synths and other non-indie instruments to flesh out the pleasingly melodic bass and the trademark Black Francis guitars. This being a side-project and seeing as Black and Clark play every instrument here themselves, do expect some rough edges. 'Long Song' for example is clearly left-field, anybody who listens to daytime radio will turn off. Why? Well, Clark has a voice that's less than perfect, but character is what we need. If we didn't need character, Tom Waits wouldn't have had a career. Yes, she sings 'Long Song' slightly flat, but it suits the material and the laid back feel the vocals present under the music before switching to rise above the music. Well, Black Francis/Frank Black always did know his dynamics. 'Long Song' is contrasted with by material such as 'Seeing Stars', flavoured far more by the sound of Frank Black solo than ( albeit pleasing ) Pixies-lite.

    The Black sung 'Fort Wayne' is almost a good song, it didn't need the plodding drums or the superflous guitar and without the Clark sung choruses wouldn't really work at all. Opening cut 'Come Over To My House' is better as far as the Frank Black sung tunes are concerned, a grinding guitar line lays down the law and you wait for the Black scream, the tension building suggests such a thing. He doesn't really scream though, rather merely raises his voice. That works though, leading into a suitably weird keyboard line. Excellent track, all in all. 'Black Suit' is another decent tune, Black's vocals a bit rough around the edges this time, yet enjoyment remains. Where 'Petit Fours' sits in the grand Frank Black scheme of things then is a little uncertain, yet merely view this as a little present from Mr and Mrs Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV and you won't be disappointed.

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    Black Francis : NonStopErotik( 2010 )
    Lake of Sin / O My Tidy Sum / Rabbits / Wheels / Dead Man's Curve / Corrina / Six Legged Man / Wild Son / When I Go Down on You / NonStopErotik / Cinema Star

    Nonstoperotik was recorded in Los Angeles, London, and Brooklyn and was co-produced with Eric Drew Feldman. Eric Drew Feldman of course worked with Frank before on The Pixies 'Trompe Le Monde' and his first two solo LPs, 'Frank Black' and the acclaimed 'Teenager Of The Year'. It's always been difficult for Francis to shake off the Pixies. Fans either want him to sound like them, reminiscent of them or nothing at all like them. Frank has tried all three ways at some point or another during his solo career without ever quite finding his own place. Post Pixies re-formation, he adopted his Pixies stage name Black Francis in what surely has to be seen as a move to excite his fanbase? After a couple of Pixies-lite LPs that followed an abrupt turn towards americana, 'NonStopErotik' is more akin to the albums he recorded with 'The Catholics', eg, largely rock based material, but with a definite twist. Excitingly, little here sounds Pixies but also little here sounds like anything, really. It all just sounds like Black Francis, it sounds new for me yet retains his trademark weirdness. Whether Eric Drew Feldman has a big part to play in this or not, i'm not sure, but he should work with him again anyway. History tells us they work well together.

    We'll get the sex thing out of the way, shall we? Yeah, this has been described as Frank's 'sex' album, as if he's gone all Barry White on us. In reality, this is more than just penises and vagina's. Some sections of the music press have turned on Frank because of his, um, weird description of the idea behind the album, but if you totally ignore all of that stuff, you'll have a far better appreciation of the album. This isn't vulgar Zappa stle humour, this is a serious set of songs. Besides, how the Flying Burrito Brothers 'Wheels' fits in to the whole sex theme is anybodies guess. Who does Frank play with (so to speak) on this album, then? Well, apart from Eric Drew Feldman, we've got Dave Phillips from The Catholics, David Henderson (Fire Engines, The, Nectarine No. 9), Jack Kidney (Show Me Your Tears, Fast Man Raiderman), Todd Demma (Drummer for Boston indie-goth band Mistle Thrush), Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu, Red Krayola) and Tony O'Keefe (??). A bunch of fairly experienced alternative musicians then? Yeah. Why do I mention them? Well, apart from the fact they deserve to be mentioned, the music on 'NonStopErotik' strikes the right balance between professionalism and energy. This isn't as 'punk' as some Black Francis/Frank Black/Pixies records yet neither is it exactly straightforward adult rock. In truth, the lyrics send this some other place and Frank Black never playing anything exactly straight sends it some other place.

    Like all good Black Francis albums, this one takes two or three listens before you realise it isn't just average. Far from it, in fact. Even the cover of 'Wheels' is given an urgent energy. 'The Lake Of Sin', great lyrics apart, doesn't seem very memorable although it's been given great attention musically, with interesting guitar parts and Frank sounding great vocally, somewhere between his solo/pixies persona's. 'Oh My Tidy Sum' is an unsettling acoustic number with spooky keyboard lines and Frank's falsetto in fine voice. It's an excellent track and even the most obvious nod to the sex theme, 'When I Go Down On You' is listenable, more than listenable actually. It's got a trademark Black Francis guitar strum, piano, effective drums and basically layers of instrumentation very cleverly arranged. The energetic most 'Pixies-like' rocker 'Six Legged Man' and then album highlight 'Wild Son' open the second half in fine style and not counting bonus tracks, the whole affair closes within thirty-six minutes, more or less an ideal album length.

    I'm liking this album, it gets better the more you listen and perhaps some critics can miss that. I have the advantage of not having to listen to a hundred records a week, so have been able to devote some time to 'NonStopErotik'. I'll be honest, I don't 'devote time' to every release I receive, but Frank deserves it and i'm glad I did. Now, i'm off to listen to 'Wild Son' again and revel in the instrumentation. When did Frank Black songs get so musically rich, anyway? I mean, this sounds like a great long lost track by The Doors and that's absolutely fine in our house.

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    this page last updated 24/7/11


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