I admit to having had a fractured relationship with Black Francis/Frank Black since he split the Pixies. I probably own the majority of his solo albums (just about) but don’t buy every one by any means. It’s actually fairly unusual for me to dip in and out of an artist’s work in this way because it tends to be all or nothing.
It seems to me that BF’s profligacy is a large part of the problem. He seems to have to record every song he writes and preferably the quicker the better. Just keeping up with his releases is difficult enough. His predilection for bashing out the songs with the minimum of production (‘Frank Black & The Catholics’, I’m talking about you) is a little bit frustrating too. The end result is that I’ve found the records I own to be variable in quality despite FB adopting a number of musical styles over the years.
I also think some of my indifference is down to his ordinary Joe choice of solo name. For me using Frank Black, rather than his Pixies moniker, kind of sold the pass. So despite not having bought an LP of his for several years, I confess that my interest was pricked by his recent re-adoption of Black Francis.
Not quite quickly enough to get ‘Bluefinger’ but in time to download the recent ‘Svn Fngrs’, a mini-LP comprising just 7 songs which clocks in around the 20 minute mark. It manages to illustrate a couple of the above points quite well. Whilst it certainly carries plenty of energy it is let down by the lack of great tunes. After 3 plays there was only one song whose melody sprung readily to mind.
It’s also fair to say also that, despite the name change, there’s nothing here that the man hasn’t done before. The songs on here do provide a certain rock thrill but the LP suffers due to a lack of melodic variation.
By way of comparison I tried to decide if I would rather listen to this or Bob Mould’s below-par ‘District Line’. Energy wise, ‘Svn Fngrs’ has the edge and (as you may expect given its length) may be the more cohesive collection. But I still prefer the better songs on Bob’s LP and admire more his determination to move his sound into radically different areas.
I suspect therefore that ‘Svn Fngrs’ isn’t going to expand FB’s fanbase but it will appeal to long term fans. And it has to be said that, on the following evidence, he can still write the odd good tune: