Frank Black

My inner nerd is pleased by the chronological ordering of the tracks on this very full sampling of Frank’s career. From the still hard early post-Pixies tracks to the matured performer of 2005’s Nashville-styled Honeycomb. As he says, “it just sounds like a regular Frank Black album because all my records are schizophrenic in tenor”. Still, it pleases me to trace the career arc. Songs are rocking, indie, spaghetti western, bouncy almost-pop, country-inflected numbers, metally things and declamatory pieces. Many breeze along on a strum that carries an echo of the acoustic composition. Others are ringing and strident, usually urgent. It’s only a short distance along the timeline before he is fully distanced from his Pixies work and off on new tangents. He’s got ants in his pants and any given album ranges over half a dozen styles, this compilation reflecting this compulsive thematic wandering. He journeys from fancy construction to comparative simplicity then flits back once in a while to show he is a free man. He’s prolific and, though this covers nine albums, another four are not represented plus one that got scheduled but never released. Fans can spend pleasurable hours debating what should or shouldn’t have been on this but this is a pretty good introduction to the man’s work.

There is a second, bonus, disc that is worth the price of admission on its own. With ex-Beefheart sidekick Eric Drew Feldman on bas and a talented crew, nine live tracks are assembled from the end of last year. They kick along in a slightly more relaxed manner than early productions but a style not unfamiliar to anyone who witnessed one of the reformed Pixies’ gigs. Roxy Music’s Remake/remodel is, guess what…… remade and..… remodelled. The old standard Been All Around The World gets a crunchy, deliberately sloppy reworking worthy of Green On Red and a reminder of the sweet Grateful Dead versions. Horrible Day is a bar-band blues, nearly as fabulously shambling as Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. Gynashwar is loud and a laugh, rounding out half an hour that shows Frank having fun with music, confident in his path.


Ross McGibbon