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Music Review: Black Francis – Nonstoperotik

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Nonstoperotik is pretty much an album about sex. Like its subject matter, it’s not an album you’ll quite get the first time you listen to it. You’ll need to try it at different times and in different places, with different company or perhaps alone, but soon you’ll find yourself unable to think of anything else as you hum along to its infectious tunes. In fact, it is a good measure of how great a Black Francis album is as everything he has ever released, from the Pixies through Frank Black and the Catholics to this, takes time to grow on the listener who may be unsure at first but is soon addicted. The difference between Nonstoperotik and Black Francis’s other solo material, however, is that this might just be his best album yet.

Born Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV, Black Francis was the former front man for the massively successful alternative rock band Pixies. When the band split in 1993, he embarked on a solo career as Frank Black and released roughly an album a year until 2007 when he began recording under the name Black Francis again. His albums have not always been well received but many people believe that his recent albums represent a return to form that coincides with the reformation of the Pixies. Nevertheless, he has an extremely strong fan base that has been waiting with bated breath for this latest release.

Nonstoperotik was recorded in Los Angeles, London, and Brooklyn and was co-produced with Eric Drew Feldman who has collaborated with Captain Beefheart, Pixies, and PJ Harvey in the past. The album will be released on the Cooking Vinyl label on March 30 in the USA and April 6 worldwide.

If there was any doubt that the album was about sex and his love of the female body, Black Francis has this to say about the album as he effectively sums up all eleven tracks in one breath:

When I was a boy the plant we boys called a fern was code for vagina, and to this day I love fern plants. In my heart the vagina is almost everything, and almost everything else could be summed up in what cock and seed have to offer; and everything else? The love of the father, dead or alive, the pain of too much pleasure, till death do us part, the voice of another song man from the other side, with or without God, Teri and the Possibilities, where ever you may be, the smell of sex in the air, seduced, slain, on my knees in prayer, sucking at the only thing that matters, my own personal Meret Oppenheim, I am Man Ray and I want you and to be all the way inside you, the cameras whirring as we put some elbow grease into the scene, the audience watching us in the dark.

It is always going to be hard hard for Black Francis to follow an act like Pixies as his solo material is constantly compared to that phenomenally popular sound. Indeed, it is great when Francis does sound like the Pixies on his albums but he also has an edgy, crazy sound of his own which has come through in his previous solo albums.

Nonstoperotik is something else though and features a tenderness and maturity that we’ve not seen before. It is an incredibly varied album that takes you on quite a journey and each song is worthy of mention.

1. “Lake Of Sin”: The album begins with the classic, driving sound that we heard on earlier Frank Black material. The lyrics bring to mind secret knocks, forbidden liaisons and awakenings. He talks about a gentle lapping before the song erupts into a barely-able-to-control-it pace and then final release.

    2. “O My Tidy Sum”: This is the second best song on the album, in my opinion. It is a slow, sensual song, but it is not in any way boring or average. It is quite beautiful and talks of lazy afternoons and drinking in the sun. In a typical Black Francis, it is also quite twisted and hints at negotiation and the exchange of payment.

    3. “Rabbits”: This is a song that has being doing the rounds in live shows for some time and fans have been begging to have the song released on an album. Originally called “Rabbit Holes”, this is a surreal song that brings to mind both Lewis Carroll and Donnie Darko.

    4. “Wheels”: A cover of the old country rock song by The Flying Burrito Brothers, this is a fun song with a definite bluegrass feeling but I have to wonder what it is doing on this album!

    5. “Dead Man's Curve”: Another song that has been doing the rounds in live shows since about 2006. Like “Wheels”, this song has a definite roots feel to it but it is also definitive Black Francis with grinding guitars and screaming lyrics.

    6. “Corrina”: This is an excellent song and the synths and backing vocals give it an emotional and energetic feel. It’s not unlike the old Roger Waters materials but undeniably Black Francis with obscure references to raincoats and tattoos.

    7. “Six Legged Man”: Similar to “Bailey’s Walk” from the B-Sides album, this song has that classical Pixies sound and will appeal to fans with its noisy guitars and lyrics.

    8. “Wild Son”: The best song on the album in my opinion. This is an incredibly sensual song that is excellent on so many levels. It is perhaps here that Eric Drew Feldman’s influence can most be heard as the sound of the Sixties emerges with complex levels of drums, bass, piano and rhythm.

    9. “When I Go Down On You”: This is a pretty intimate song that feels slightly uncomfortable at first. In the end, it is one of those sweeping, nostalgia-inducing songs and is not unlike Tom Petty (don’t shoot me for saying that!). Whereas a lot of Black Francis’s material is chaotic and rebellious, this is a pretty standard song about the transcendence of love and being with your soul mate.

    10. “Nonstoperotik”: If the previous song was intimate then this is a million times so. This is a pretty tender song and is the title track of the album.

    11. “Cinema Star”: Black Francis finishes off the album with a return to his favourite topics of retro surf and futurism with an upbeat and energetic song. There is a definite voyeuristic edge to the song and in his way, he reminds us that he’s not quite gone all soft as we’d imagined in the previous two songs.

    Look out for Nonstoperotik in stores from the end of March and definitely give the album a couple of listens.

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About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is a blogger, serial expat and eternal tourist living and working in London. Aside from writing at Blogcritics, she blogs about travel and London at Emm in London, entertainment and media at Addicted to Media and war crimes, genocide and social justice over at A Passion to Understand. Mandy has continued to write for Blogcritics under the new profile Mandy Southgate.
  • Jamesy

    DHD how are you glad you didn’t meet him? I don’t get that statement at all. He seems like a super intelligient and interesting person and that is so rare nowadays in an age of dancing with the stars and jersey shore. I would love to knock back a few with one of the most brilliant and talented song writers of my era. Seriously. Oh just to express my opinion on Frank Black’s solo matieria. I personally feel it is great. Sometimes even stronger than the timelessly epic Pixies albums that came before.

  • DHD

    I didn’t like Nonstoperotic on the first listern, like i did with blue finger, but know i’m starting to love it, like with most of his previous albums. But after reading his quote I’m glad i didn’t meet him after the Sydney show, I did have beers with Joey Santigo thow. He was cool and down-to-earth.

  • Emm

    What exactly is confusing you Eric? That music is a subjective experience and we all enjoy it differently? It reminded me of Bailey’s Walk when I first heard it and it still does. My obsession with the Pixies did not translate into me being a Frank Black fan because to me, he simply didn’t sound enough like them. So no, I don’t see your comparison to Crackity Jones at all (or any of my other favourite Pixies songs).

    It’s just my opinion Eric and not really worth getting into a discussion if who has listened to what album more. You have a way with words though – do you have a link to your review? You should write one.

  • Emm – You mean 6-legged…not 8-legged. And I’m a little confused by your comparison to Bailey’s Walk, a song that has a sedate tempo (punctuated by sudden long rests); Six Legged Man, on the other hand, is very fast…just shy of Crackity Jones in terms of speed…and it doesn’t have anything resembling Bailey’s Walk’s characteristic gaps. Could it be that you’re misidentifying the track? Unless in fact I am mistaken…but I doubt I somehow have a unique version of the album.

  • Emm

    I’d give it 7 out of 10.

    This review got trashed on one of the Frank Black forums (which you conveniently can’t register for) as they said it was obviously written by a fan. That is not true – the point is I am a Pixies fan and I hadn’t really liked any of his solo stuff except for Frank Black and Teenager.

    So, I don’t give it 9 or 10 because those scores usually make me rush out and get everything else the artist has ever released. That is obviosuly not going to happen here because I am not a fan of his other stuff. It was this album that I liked – a lot.

    It also did take several listens and a bit of research to “get” songs like “Rabbits” and “Wheels” so another point lost there.

    Finally, 8 Legged Man has the same stop-start beat that Bailey’s Walk had – they literally sound similar.

    Alex – have you heard it??? What would your score be?

  • Alex

    This is going to be like his Teenager the Year of this decade. It looks extremely promising. What would you give it on a scale of 1-10?

  • Emm

    You think so Alex? That’s good news.

  • Alex

    Album of the Decade!