She’s Got Your Back, Black
Violet Clark takes the spotlight
by Jeremy Ohmes
Violet Clark probably doesn’t care that her partner is considered rock royalty. She just wants him to leave the toilet seat down. And besides, she’s the duchess to his duke, the regal equal in the musical micro-kingdom that they call Grand Duchy. Black Francis, aka Frank Black of Pixies fame (and possibly Eugene’s most noted musician), might be her husband and bandmate, but Clark’s penchant for ’80s synth pop reigns supreme on the duo’s debut album, Petits Fours.
Clark, who contributed some backing vocals on two of Black’s solo albums, might bow down at the ’80s altar, but at times, her voice sounds cut from the same sassy cloth as any number of ’90s alt-rock ladies, including Kim Deal. On “Lovesick,” her sexy cheekiness coupled with quirky electro-pop might remind some of the Breeders — if they went New Wave. “Seeing Stars” cruises through some breezy trip-hop moments before Clark drives the song around a couple of Annie Lennox corners. Even when Black takes the reins, he sometimes sounds stuck between two decades. “Black Suit” might be as close to goth and Garbage as he’s ever been.
Of course, there are classic Black moments, such as the rocking lurch and clomp of “Come On Over to My House,” which could be an outtake from Teenager of the Year, and the laidback high-pitched howl of “Fort Wayne.” But even then Clark sneaks into the spotlight with a bevy of la, la, las and some seductive sweet nothings whispered in French. There are also some occasional Pixie-isms, such as the cryptic non-sequiturs, the lyrics in other languages and the playful studio banter on “Volcano,” which begins with Clark asking, “Is this song starting? I’m a little confused.”
But the difference between Petits Fours and all of Black’s previous albums is that the constant frontman sounds relaxed, almost relieved, that he’s not front and center. His cachet and catchy caterwaul might draw people to Grand Duchy, but Clark is the ace up the sleeve that will keep them there. In other words, go for the Black, stay for the Clark.
Grand Duchy, Circa Vitae, The Ineffectuals, 8 pm, Sunday, May 3. WOW Hall • $13 adv., $15 door