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Black Francis

NonStopErotik


[Cooking Vinyl; 2010]



By ; April 22, 2010 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Black Francis has a history of making his audience read between the lines. It took me years to realize that “Here Comes Your Man” was about a deranged hobo and not a love song. So when news passed that Francis was releasing an album full of songs about love and sex to accompany a Judy Jacob project, I can hardly be blamed for being skeptical. And skeptical is how one has to look at most of Francis’ releases these days. There was a time when Black Francis (or Frank Black, or Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) was a game changing musician. At the bare minimum, nobody can claim a greater influence on alternative and independent music during the late eighties. His formula and style has been everywhere since, and it’s made his own work post-Pixies considerably less compelling as a result. Part of the blame though falls on him, as it seems like he’s more interested in getting albums out than getting them right.

One probably expects a pretty raunchy outcome given Francis’ history, but for the most part the lyrics trend towards mild metaphors and innuendo rather than outright amorousness. When he stays on this path, things are usually compelling, such as “Oh My Tidy Sum” and “Lake Of Sin.” It’s when Francis strays from this that he falls into trouble, such as the weak “When I Go Down On You” (yes, as far as I can tell it is about that). Thankfully he doesn’t do that too often, and the album is better for it.

The best moments on the album are the slow-tempo tracks. On those, Francis takes advantage of his ever improving falsetto. This allows for some surprisingly beautiful moments that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Jeff Buckley album such as the stunning “Rabbits.” There are songs for the Pixie devotees as well, such as “Six Legged Man,” which has the same throwaway vibe of old Pixie classic “Tony’s Theme.”

The best song on the album is the stalkerish and haunting closer, “Cinema Star.” This is the closest Francis comes to hitting the highs of his best work, though it doesn’t sound like he’s deliberately reaching back into his past. Its jerky verse keeps it fresh, making it the most compelling track on the album.

So is this a change of direction for Black Francis or is this another half-baked effort? Surprisingly, it’s much more in the first category. Nobody is going to mistake this for a great album, but NonStopErotik really peaks and flows well while having enough to make it worth an additional spin or two. While it’ll probably be forgotten in the wake of the next 17 or so albums he releases this decade, chances are it’ll stand out as one of his better ones.


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