As we all know by now, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV, aka Frank Black, has re-adopted the Black Francis moniker and released two albums under that name, 2007’s Bluefinger and 2008’s SVN Fingers. Others know that I am a rabid Pixies fan and have faithfully followed Frank Black’s career since the dissolution of the Pixies in 1992. I’ve seen Frank live four times, twice with his former band The Catholics and twice on the Pixies reunion tour in 2004. That’s not a lot, I suppose, but I was a poor college student for a long time, so concerts were an infrequent luxury.
Anyway, when Frank Black started hinting at new Pixies material being recorded in 2007, I couldn’t hide my glee. New material from my favorite band of all time after a 15 year hiatus sounded too good to be true. Slowly, new recordings began to surface. The Pixies had apparently been recruited to record a song for one of the Shrek movies, and the result was the Kim Deal-penned “Bam Thwok”. The song is a fun, bouncy, slightly Muppet-sounding (Wocka wocka wocka!) tune, and I would hazard a guess that Frank Black used the opportunity to extend a laurel of peace to Kim in allowing the band to record this tune. It doesn’t come close to any of the Pixies best stuff, but it still sounds decidedly Pixies-like thanks to Joey Santiago’s blistering, tyrannosaurus guitar roars. By the way, the guy from Dreamworks who requested the song didn’t like the end product, so the song was not used in the Shrek film. Probably a good thing, because Mike Myers is a douche, and the Pixies have never exactly been kid’s movie fodder.
Next, the band was recruited for a tribute album to the late Warren Zevon titled Enjoy Every Sandwich. The end result was their cover of “Ain’t That Pretty At All.” Here’s where I got all giddy. The chemistry between Kim and Frank in this song is so amazing, and they sound like they are having a fucking blast. To hear that manic scream again after Frank Black’s recent forays into softer Americana territory warmed this fantard’s soul.
Unfortunately, that was all we got. From all the rumors I’ve read on the intarwebs, it would seem that Kim Deal was just not interested in making a new album with the band. She has, however, begun producing material with her band The Breeders again. Perhaps the relationship between her and Black Francis never fully healed, or perhaps it was just as thorny as it always was. Either way, the likelihood of any more new Pixies material is slim. Boo hoo.
Now we have the return of Black Francis. What has it yielded? So far, not a whole lot. I’m a little confused as to why he felt the need to resurrect the old name. If you buy these records and are expecting to hear the Pixies, you won’t get it. If you go in expecting to hear Frank Black, you won’t wuite get that either. What we get is a blending of the two. At times, many of the songs off of the Black Francis records sound like they would fit in perfectly on a Frank Black and the Catholics album. Every now and then, however, he comes close to the sound that defined his old band. I think the closest has come so far is with the song “Threshold Apprehension.” Full of Black Francis’s trademark yelps, and backing vocals that almost sound like they could have come from Kim Deal herself, this was the first song off Bluefinger that I heard.
So Black Francis is back, and he is rocking out. He’s just not quite giving us Pixies-level quality yet. I’m glad he’s back on a rock ‘n’ roll kick, and I think the latest albums show a promise of good things to come. However, one thing that is noticably absent from these recordings is Joey’s guitar. Black Francis, call Joey. Get him to do your next record with you. Please! Thank you.