The Joup Friday Album: Frank Black and the Catholics – S/T

220px-Fbcs I’ve had it up to my stress-deforested bonce of the Pixies. I careen this horn-honking, screeching-wheeled hipster-admission headlong into your family’s stationwagon knowing full well how I’m going to come off, because this exhaustion is based on their ever-swelling fanbase. Yeah, that’s right I don’t like them because YOU DO! What galls me about this steady torrent of newb recruitment is actually Frank Black’s consistently overlooked solo back catalogue. This slight against Frank-kind deprives me of as prolific a period as he had when he was a Catholic while he predominantly ignores extracurricular activities and gives priority to lining his already sizeable coffers by being endlessly on the road with David, Joey and cardboard-cutout Kim.

In the interest of balance – just so we’re clear as to the consistency of my vitriol, upon its release I despised this album too. “C’mon Chuck, I’ve just gotten used to your beautiful debut and its fruity twin disc follow-up, then you pull this middle aged shit?” ‘The Cult of Ray’ seemed so wilfully two dimensional in the shadow of its colossally Gonzo predecessor, the indefatigable ‘Teenager of the Year’ that I gave it a sicknote and skived work in anticipation of a return to form on this fourth solo release, but what in the Blue Baboon-bottomed Blazes was this gold-spraypainted, Made in Taiwan-looking jamboree of utmost buffoonery that pantomimed as an album cover? ‘Recorded live to Two-Track over two days’ for some Hokey imprint? (‘Spinart’ Stateside, ‘Play It Again Sam Records’ in the UK) Frank seemed to be astride a dead horse facing in the direction of the bargain bin of oblivion.

I’d had the CD single of opening track ‘All My Ghosts’ for a couple of weeks prior which had already served to dampen some of my anticipation, and after listening to the album all the way through the aforementioned laconic barroom dirge, it was the only song I could stomach. But, as was customary in those days of parting with our hard earned dough for physical records, you’d better play the shit out of it until you’re damn sure it’s unremitting bilge (genuinely interesting fact, this album was actually the first album by a major artist to be commercially released as a digital download). And it was during that gestation period that this now all-but-extinct alchemy occurred and this shit turned to Solid Gold. I can’t be sure of the time period as the album continued to grow on me as I persisted in going the opposite direction my instincts were screaming and take chances on these Frank Black-helmed explorations into MOR-sounding ‘lectric guitar driven, Highway drivin’ dashboard-patting-Americana, and looked beneath what I’d at first considered the more pedestrian songcraft to discover a lyrical landscape as densely populated as the most abstract ramblings from his tenure penning the songs that made (a permutation of) his name.

Frank Black and The Catholics would go on to release an album a year until 2003 with their unremitting philosophy of recording live to Two Track, with each album arguably an improvement on it’s predecessor. March will see a re-release of all the Catholics’ albums tracklisted together in Alphabetical order, but I recommend getting acquainted with them in their original incarnation if you haven’t already. Along with pretty much everything else he’s ever released since, there’s really never been any point in missing the Pixies.

*Honourable mention:’I Gotta Move’ is an ode to the (then) recently departed JACK NANCE!

See you later, Mr Baker.

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

2 Responses to The Joup Friday Album: Frank Black and the Catholics – S/T
  1. […] fan of Frank Black’s solo career more than I’ve been of the Pixies – esp the Catho...
  2. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    I Love to see someone else give this record its due! I’ve loved this since it came out and although I love all the Catholics stuff, and maybe they do get better craft wise, this will always be my favorite. My favorite Frank Black-related album EVER. I’m a huge Pixies fan but back when these Catholics records were coming out I kind of suspended my Pixies fandom, especially when they began the perfunctory reunion shows in, ah, what? 2003? Like yourself sir, I looked at any time spent with the Pixies as time away from Mr. Black’s solo career. After the Catholics shit continued to explode – Blue Finger and later the first Grand Duchy album proved he could do the pixies without doing the pixies, so why bother? All that said, I absolutely LOVE the new Pixies material I just hate that it’s eating into more solo material seeing the light of day. I also hate that I bought two EPs, missed a third and then they released all of it as an album. That’s been enough to keep me from buying said album or 3rd ep. The Pixies deserve it, and if all this helps fund Frank until the end of the world that’ll be awesome, but let’s hold it down a bit, eh?

    And I love the Nance track and that it’s followed by I Need Peace, which is probably, in my opinion, the best ‘song’ he’s ever written.

    Great choice mate!

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