First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2007, Volume 14, #9
Written by John Metzger
Tue September 11, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Make no mistake about it: Although he has resurrected his other pseudonym Black Francis, the material on Frank Black’s latest effort Bluefinger doesn’t play out in quite the same fashion as a Pixies album would have. For certain, a lot of time has passed since Black broke up the band, and despite its recent, triumphant reunion tour, Black has shown few signs that he is interested in returning to the past simply for the sake of nostalgia. From his early solo endeavors to the reconfigured Pixies classics that filled the latter half of Frank Black Francis, he instead has proven that what he wants to do is toy with his history, shaping and re-shaping it however he sees fit. Still, as the guttural growl he unleashes during the intro to Captain Pasty and the manic snarl of the subsequent Threshold Apprehension attest, Bluefinger is the closest in the studio that Black has come in a long, long time to recreating the Pixies’ now legendary sound.
The country textures that increasingly have dominated Black’s work aren’t gone completely from Bluefinger — in fact, one can hear them lurking in the background of the sludgy, Neil Young-ian droning of the title track, for example — but they have been pushed far off into the distance. Using a formula that he perfected with the Pixies, Black leverages his menacing posture against his melodic inclinations. For as crazed as he sounds on Threshold Apprehension, he effortlessly settles into She Took All My Money’s head-bopping groove. Even within the former cut, there are moments that are ridiculously infectious. Likewise, 18 years after the Pixies delivered Doolittle, and 16 years after Nirvana unleashed Nevermind, it’s impossible not to hear the give-and-take between the two bands floating through Bluefinger’s contents, particularly during the gritty refrains of Captain Pasty and the throbbing, rhythmic chug of Tight Black Rubber.
The seeds for Bluefinger were planted during the recording session that was held to lay down a bonus track for Black’s career retrospective 93–03. Inspired by the work of Dutch painter/musician Herman Brood, Black expanded upon his initial ideas and wound up with a full-blown concept album. In a typical fashion, the storyline is convoluted. Angels Come to Comfort You, the tale of Brood’s leap to his death from an Amsterdam hotel, for example, is tucked neatly into the center of the set. Nevertheless, over the course of the endeavor, Black brings into focus the reckless abandon of Brood’s lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock ’n‘ roll, and on the title track, his central character makes no apologies for the paths that he has followed. "I’m a Jumping Jack to this thing on my back/And all of my choices were pure," Black sings as he grinds the song toward its conclusion. In its wake, he leaves listeners with a statement that says as much about his own life as it does about Brood’s. ½
Bluefinger is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box