I know a lot of folks were psyched when Charles Thompson, better known as Frank Black, aka Black Francis reunited with Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering for a bunch of new Pixies shows a couple years ago. I had a couple chances to see them but passed every chance up. Why?
You can’t go home again.
Now, by the time I got into them Pixies they were no longer a musical unit. I think it was about the time Mr. Black released Cult of Ray, so… 1996 I believe. So I never had a chance to see the band in their heyday. I don’t blame anyone for being psyched for the reunion – frankly I was kind of annoyed with myself for not wanting to go.
I love the Pixies.
But something about it just freaked me out and I let the opportunity pass me by. I’ve been in love with Mr. Black’s solo stuff since a good friend drilled the first couple albums into me during a wonderful summer of BBQ’s and house parties and now, well, to see rock’s (arguably) most prolific front man divert his energies back into something that, well, that was wonderful but definitely a product of time and place… I don’t know, I just couldn’t do it.*
Then there was the talk about a new Pixies album… which thankfully (although I was intrigued beyond belief) didn’t happen. And you know why I was interested but consider it good that it didn’t happen? Because if you picked up Mr. Black’s BLUEFINGER album in ’07 you heard how at least half of its songs sound as though they were probably the tunes he was writing for the unrealized Pixies album, complete with his new wife Violet Clark singing the female back-up parts that one can only expect Ms. Deal would have otherwise sung. This album alone is worth not getting that Pixies album, because it feels like Black back on that Pixies-songwriting wavelength but without being weighed down by a reunion scenario (those oh so rarely go well, eh?). Shit, Threshold Apprehension was my favorite Black song in years and a total throwback to that insane, neurotic Black that we got to know so well on tracks like Rock Music (Bossanova) or Bone Machine (Surfer Rosa – ‘you buy me a soda and try to molest me in the parking lot?’).
Then what does Mr. Prolific do? Well hell, hardly six months later (you’d think us Black fans would be used to new records just popping out of the ether unexpectedly) SVN FNGRS comes out and we get a strange amalgam of Pixies-esque (and beyond) weirdness on some tracks and Devil’s Workshop-era songwriting swagger on others.
Now you seeing why I feel Frank (if I may call him Frank) doesn’t need to rehash the good old days?
Finally, in April of this year Black Francis decided to forgo the ‘solo’ life and form a new band, complete with new wife taking up half the vocal duties, and give us GRAND DUCHY’s first album PETITS FOURS.
And hot damn is it good!
Something about Petits Fours reminds me of a next logical step from what Black was writing on the final Pixies album Trump le Monde. Maybe it’s a deepening of the alien theme or maybe it just hits me as the more insane side of this lovely, wonderful man whose music I adore. There is so much texture here too, with the addition of lush, 80’s-ish keyboards (it’s good, trust me), Melodic and biting bass lines and the oft juxtaposition of Black screaming and Violet singing soulfully (track 5: Black Suit is my new favorite song by this man). I really can’t imagine an alternate Universe where Black wasted any time with the Pixies, he’s on the right path. And as Deputy Hawk would say, “You’re on a path, you don’t need to know where it leads, just follow”… or something like that.
Buy it and support a legend in our time.
* Don Juan smacks me on the shoulder and says, ‘you think too much. It’s just rock music, have fun!’