Black is back and Damien Love is all ears.
To many. Frank Black is the ex-Pixies mainman responsible for some ofthe most twisted pop moments of the last decade. moments when it sounded like David Lynch and Luis Bunuel were getting down with the Sabs. the Stooges and the Beach Boys. in ways which largely prefigured what became known as grunge. The man who then took the courageous/controversial/erazy decision to end that band in favour of a solo career which has divided opinion almost as much as his former band united it. Then again. to many others. due to the reeurranee of a certain strain of imagery in his writing. Frank Black is simply ‘the UFO guy.‘
‘Y'know.’ he sighs. 'it‘s an easy. lazy kind of angle and. without tooting my own horn too much. I think | it‘s a little more sophisticated than that. But just talking about the UFO or the alien or whatever — it's been with us since the dawn of popular music. you first start hearing it crop up in popular lyrics in the 50s. Soto me. it‘s always been there and I'm just following a kind ofquiet tradition. People like Sun Ra. ‘Spaee is the Place‘ . . . y‘know. the guy said he was from Venus! And I think in music circles. people would take him pretty seriously. It's easy to laugh at it. because there‘s plenty to laugh at. but there‘s other stuff there that's more sophisticated and mysterious than that. I‘m not just talking about the UFO. I'm talking about a lot of things.‘
Shades of Black
The ('1!!! ()j‘Ray. Frank's new album — so named in tribute to Ray Bradbury (‘one of the greatest friggin‘ writers of the century. not just science fiction. He wrote l-‘ami/u'i/ 45/ for God's sake!) — represents a move away from the synth-friendly structures of last year‘s 'llwntgar (Ill/Ia Year. back to the core guitar foundations his previous band were built upon. but the singer is keen to stress that this isn't the result of any market research.
‘lt‘s not because I‘m shaking in my boots because
‘l’m not pigeon-holed, I’m free. I’m free as a friggin’ pigeon. So whatever I do, I do it ’cos I like to do it, and I’m gonna milk this as long as I can, ’cos it beats my last job.’
someone said I had no right to dabble in keyboards.‘ he says. ‘There were a lot of flavours (on 'l'eenager) that people don't associate with me. But just because I'm pigeon-holed . . . that‘s someone else‘s perception. I'm not pigeon-holed, I'm free. I'm free as a friggin‘ pigeon. So whatever I do. I do it 'cos I like to do it. and I’m gonna milk this as long as I can, ‘cos it beats my last job.‘
This last sentence is one which also crops up in Frank's self-penned press release. leaving one
Frank ‘Barklng’ Black: “Mad? Moi? Plneapples.’
attempting to imagine what horrors lurk in ‘the ufo guy's‘ curriculum vitae.
‘Uh. shipping and receiving. Unloading trucks and loading them up again.‘ Pretty heavy work. then? ‘Well. actually. i worked at a place called the Windsor Button factory. and so they did things like . . . buttons. And. y'know. feathers for strippers.’
Those button-shifting days. of course. were when Frank Black didn‘t exist. and mild mannered Charles Thompson still held control over the singer's body. in the battle for supremacy. however. it appears that. for the moment. the being from the planet of sound holds the upper hand. ‘Charles Thompson just doesn't . . . ring!‘ asserts Mr. Black. ‘lt's kinda mumny or something. More and more I believe my own bullshit. I’m turning into Frank. Frankenstein. the ego-monster.‘
Now on his third solo album. the ‘ex-Pixies' tag shouldn't really be hung around Frank Black's neck — after all. it doesn't crop up in connection with Kim Deal too much these days. But, if someone were to offer him a glimpse into a version of 1996 where that band had never split up. would the ego-monster be tempted to have a look? ‘Er. I guess so . . . eh. no. I guess not . . . I dunno. It’s a little hypothetical, which is fine. I'm all about hypothetical. but when it‘s personal like that. it‘s hard to get hypothetical.‘
We'll leave that one in the ex-ﬁles. then.
Frank Black plays The Garage. Glasgow on Mon 29.
The List 26 Jan-8 Feb 1996 35