Black Francis Goes Down on You
Former Pixies frontman sings songs of sex, death and lust
by rick levin
|Photo by todd cooper|
Black Francis is one twisted mofo. With his everyman demeanor, he deflects attention instead of attracting it. It’s what’s on the inside, where the wild things are, that give him an aura of vague threat.
Black Francis — aka Frank Black, aka Pixies founder, aka Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV — is possessed by an imagination that’s morbidly drawn to the dirty underbelly of the human psyche, that dungeon where sadistic and self-immolating thoughts sabotage our polite social selves. Slicing up eyeballs, monkeys gone to heaven, driving your car into the ocean or off Dead Man’s Curve — his lyrics erupt like blurts of Tourette’s. Couple this with a knack for some of the catchiest pop hooks since Pete Townsend discovered the windmill and a voice that can move from lulling to blood-curdling in an eyeblink, and you’ve got an exceptional artist who rivals David Byrne, Crispin Glover or David Lynch for sheer, alien-like strangeness.
The Pixies were one of those once-in-a-generation bands that transcend mere influence to birth a genre unto itself. But let’s not dwell on the past, because the post-Pixies oeuvre forged by Frank Black Francis (hereafter referred to, with all due respect, as FBF) in many ways surpasses his prior achievements. His un-Pixilated stuff — from the Teenager of the Year and Honeycomb to The Catholics and Grand Duchy — testifies to his artistic durability, his melodic genius and, most of all, his uncanny ability to evolve into ever interesting artistic species. Ecce homo — the man is a peculiar force of the unnatural, a visitor from some alternate universe of UFOs, shapeshifters, crypto-religious conundrums and goat’s head soup.
Witness his latest offering, NONSTOP-EROTIK, a salty and super cool album that mines the mercurial malady-cum-paradise of the bestial libido. There are the expected handful of stripped-down and infectiously catchy pop rockers, like “Lake of Sin,” “Corrina” and “Dead Man’s Curve.” But when NONSTOPEROTIK isn’t delightfully rattling brains, it swaps its superfuzz for a little bigmuff and sashays into some disarmingly sweet and frankly hot-and-bothered territory.
Channeling everything from ’60s psychedelia and ’70s soul to smoky blues and Mexican rancheras, NONSTOP emerges as FBF’s songs about fucking. “I don’t need to have somebody new / When I go down on you…” If there’s a metaphor here, it’s secondary; the words mean pretty much what they say. Songs like “When I Go Down on You” and “Wild Son” wear their Cupid’s arrows like a porcupine in heat.
By turns elegiac and unabashedly erotic, the songwriting is tinged by an us-versus-them capital-R romanticism that smolders with a barely restrained passion. “Now I cannot hide all this tension, I want to be inside, that’s my intention… inside of you, all the way,” FBF sings with faltering vulnerability on the title cut, just before a Procol Harum guitar lick lays a thin white rope of frosting on the sentiment. It’s enough to re-animate the moribund Summer of Love, but Frank-Black-Francis style, without the free-love bullshit and corroded at the edges by sexuality’s constant companion, death.
NONSTOPEROTIK, full of love and squalor, is the most direct, engaging and intimate album FBF has made. Despite all its strange currencies and gallows humor, it deserves placement alongside such come-hither, second-date spinners as Dusty in Memphis and Let’s Stay Together.
Black Francis. Saturday, April 17, 3 pm, CD World, free. 6 pm, Sam Bond’s Garage, $15. Both shows are all ages