My Songs, Damn It! Mine!

Frank Black’s Frank Black Francis

A natural progression from yesterday’s post on A Perfect Circle’s new record is a comment on Frank Black’s recently released two-disc set, Frank Black Francis. (Or is that Frank Black Francis’ new self-titled release? This shifting-name business is so confusing.) The voice of the Pixies does one better than a concept covers album, putting out a set of 13 new treatments of his own songs alongside solo demos recorded before the seminal band’s first studio session. The lo-fi early recordings are revelatory in that the songs are already fully formed, and their echo-y intimacy — along with the absence of Joey Santiago’s fiery guitar — brings a warmth to the material that’s surprising and pleasant. The new recordings are far more interesting — dorky, relentlessly odd, and seemingly crafted following the ingestion of large amounts of hallucinogens. Guitar-bass-drum arrangements are chucked in favor of hypnotic, ethereal settings featuring horns as the lead instruments. Black slows down the songs, sands off their jagged edges, and sends them through the same filter Dali used to break down and warp reality. “Where Is My Mind?” benefits most, becoming lost and dreamy. But generally the songs suffer from having their aggression — really, their blood — drained out of them, and what’s left is a curiously entrancing but ultimately pointless record conceived as a way for Black to steal back his songs from the alternative-rock canon.

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