Thursday, July 15, 2010

NonStopErotik Is Dirty, But Not In The Way You Think

Black Francis (aka Frank Black, aka Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) has never been afraid to let his freak flag fly. If you’re already a fan, NonStopErotik, his most recent solo outing, will not disappoint.

Whether he’s working it as the ferocious Pixies front man or as a lovable oddball doing with his own gig, the man knows how to pen lyrics. His voice, from thoughtfully subdued to wildly wailing, is in a class by itself. In NonStopErotik, you'll find it to be melodic, chaotic, and, as its title would suggest, with strong sexual overtones (and undertones).

It's equal parts love and lust, raw and subtle.

The characteristic Black Francis themes of sex, science and religion are interwoven throughout songs such as Lake of Sin, O My Tidy Sum, and When I Go Down On You. But the latter song is not half as vulgar as Francis would lead us to believe. It’s a quirky love song written with somebody special in mind.

There are a few other standouts too. Corrina is a strong rocker. Dead Man’s Curve gives his amazing vocals a workout. For me, it's easily the strongest song of the lot. All of them are original, with exception to a cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ Wheels.

Francis does his due diligence and makes the song his own. Gram Parsons would be pleased.

Beyond Francis, co-producer Eric Drew Feldman proves he has a good set of ears and a unique ability to keep the eclectic Francis mostly on track. Feldman — who’s also worked with Captain Beefheart, PJ Harvey, and the Pixies — is a veteran. He worked with Francis (Frank Black) on a few of his solo albums, including the giddy and aptly named Teenager of the Year. This time, he even played on it.

I think Teenager of the Year is Francis’s best solo release; and it was named for an honor Black Francis (as Thompson, of course) actually received back in his Massachusetts school days. But what about NonStopErotik?

Overall, NonStopErotik is a bit of a risk. It's not a risk because of the sexual overtones. It's a risk for the decidedly lo-fi sound. As a Francis fan, it was easy enough to love half the songs on the first listen. The rest had to grow on me the second and third time around.

If you want something a bit more forceful, go back to Bluefinger. It has many Pixies-like moments while remaining true to his unique solo sound.

You can also find Black Francis on MySpace and also on Facebook if you want to know more about the man. Watch for him on tour in the Northwestern United States (August) after a brief stop in Australia. By September, he'll be on an aggressive coast-to-coast schedule before wrapping up in South America and Mexico.

Black Francis - NonStopErotik Teases 8.3 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

On iTunes, NonStopErotik reviews suggest why hard core fans will remember why they dug Black Francis in the first place, and newbies will be converts.

Amazon listeners are a little less forgiving. Some NonStopErotik reviewers drag down the reviews, obviously for the lo-fi sound I warn about.