I wish I'd never seen The Pixies in concert back in the day. If I hadn't, I might be a bigger fan and not one of those people who thinks "over-rated" when someone espouses his or her Pixies love.
I distinctly remember buying Come On Pilgrim during my freshman year of college and thinking it was a really cool record. See, this was waaay before aesthetic atrophy and I bought the record for one reason and one reason only: Steve Albini, a hero of mine back then for his work in Big Black, produced it. two reasons and two reasons only: It was cheap and I liked the cover (I think). Like most people, I'd never even heard of the Pixies at that point.
The following year I bought Surfer Rosa and was impressed with it, too, though I felt it wasn't as interesting as Come On Pilgrim. And a year later, Doolittle came out and I was less-impressed. The super-slick production took a lot of the edge off the band's quirky sound.
Then, I saw The Pixies. And boy, oh, boy, did The Pixies ever suck. I don't know, maybe by that point Black Francis and Kim Deal hated each other's guts and could barely stand to share a stage together. They seemed disengaged and barely phoning it in up there on the stage. And despite two solid years of touring, they were not as accomplished as I'd anticipated. I can't remember think of any show that left me more disappointed, and I turned my back on The Pixies forever.
And because I did, I never paid any attention to what Black Francis/Frank Black did in the late '90s and throughout the 2000s. Until I got his new one, NonStopErotik, a couple of days ago. And I'm happy to say that I like Black Francis as an established professional musician. I guess I shouldn't be surprised it sounds nothing like The Pixies, but I like the way Francis still toys with conventional rock 'n' roll song structure but makes his twists and turns through his songs seamlessly.
This collection of songs feels urgent, as if Francis refused to over-think any aspect of the making of this record. Perhaps that's out of necessity, given that his day job -- raking in the bucks fronting a reunited Pixies -- forces him into a state of efficiency in the studio. The result is a solid rock 'n' roll record, with a big emphasis on the rock.
Best song: "Dead Man's Curve" and "Corrina," which sound like Black Francis fronting the E Street Band.
Deja vu: A former icon making music for the fun of it.
I'd rather listen to: Come On Pilgrim (but just because it's been 18 years since I did so)
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.
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