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Music Review: Black Francis – Svn Fngrs

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A little bit of background for the uninitiated. Black Francis was the front man for the seminal indie rock band the Pixies. When they split up in the early 90's he changed his name to Frank Black and went solo. As Frank Black, his music became progressively simpler. He peeled back the layers and noise and added new influences. Brushes of Cajun, folk, and alt-country could all be heard in his recent albums and it sounded like he was mellowing out.

In my opinion, his simpler songs proved he was a great songwriter. The songs held up without all the distortion and weirdness.

Last year, Frank Black became Black Francis again. Bluefinger was released under the Black Francis name and it was his most rocking album in a while. On it, Black sounded re-energized.

Svn Fngrs is the EP follow-up to Bluefinger. It is alternately rowdy, and not quite as rowdy. Black Francis has added harmonica to his sonic arsenal. While I never considered it a rock instrument, he makes it rock. The album starts with "The Seus" and "Garbage Heap." They are two dissonant loud songs with odd rhythms. After a few listens the melodies become apparent and the songs become addictive.

The rest of the album recalls early Frank Black. It has the same persistent surf rock rhythms, stabby guitars, melodic bass lines, and talky/shouty vocals. The low point of the album is "Seven Fingers." It is another one of Black's bizarre song tales. Black often makes these types of songs, but this one is not as amusing or memorable as previous ones have been.

The album closes with a classic Black paranoid song "When They Come to Murder Me." In it Black sings," When they come to murder me / I'll have already gone bye-bye." That lyric sounds very dark, but Black makes it sound almost buoyant.

For those who are not rabid fans, I would not recommend this is a place to start. If you have already heard the Pixies, then Bluefinger or Teenager of the Year would probably be more palatable. It is a great collection of songs but may sound jarring to virgin ears. For Frank Black/Black Francis fans this album is necessary to own. The songs are solid and you can hear him moving forward musically yet again. It suggests his next full-length will be something special.

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About Mark Kalriess