Diehard fans went into mourning in 1993, when Pixies frontman Black Francis (a.k.a. Charles Thompson) pulled the plug on the influential Beantown alt-rock band. I remember interviewing a very Frank (natch) Black a few years after the breakup, when he was doing press for his album, The Cult of Ray. He all but dismissed a Pixies reunion before he hung up on me – saying there was “no new ground to cover” and the band had “done all that it was intended to.”
Two messages for Mr. Black over a decade later: One, never say never. And two, thanks for the reunion. Seriously, it felt like college all over again.
Ego clashes and an opening slot on U2’s Zoo TV Tour were to blame when the Pixies’ disbanded; the reinvented bandleader quickly released his first solo album with a semi-inverted moniker and spent the next decade churning out quirky edgy alt-pop on his own. Nine albums in ten years, to be precise. To wit, reviewing a “greatest hits” package of Black’s work is as strange as using those words in the same sentence as his ever-changing name.
Though not as troublesome as the last Pixies compilation, Wave of Mutilation, one has to wonder how the essentials are picked, when it all seems to be, well, essential?
See, Black’s never one who cared for or about hit records. And from the sounds of Frank Black 93-03, that will seemingly never change. This two-disc compilation supports that attitude – highlighting his 10-year solo career, as well songs from the many records he fashioned with his hand-picked backing band, The Catholics. Also included also is a hidden track called “Threshold Apprehension” from his upcoming solo album Bluefinger. In the end, this sounds about as correct as any Black compilation could. But the odds are his most devout fans will dissect the selections and running order like Trekkies analyze Kirk, Spock and McCoy for many years to come.