Monday, March 28, 2011

Black Francis Brings Some B-Sides And The Golem

Black FrancisThere doesn’t seem to be too much that Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black, a.k.a. Charles Thompson) can’t do. His success as a solo artist, frontman of various self-formed bands, and as one-quarter of the seminal Pixies would be enough for most. But Black Francis plays to a different beat.

Recently, the artist has released two CDs — Abbabubba B-Sides Etc. and The Golem. Diehard fans already know the work. They are not technically new.

But they are new to the digital world. Abbabubba, originally released in 2010, has previously only been available through the Black Francis Website. And The Golem is culled from the DVD of the same name. More about that in a minute. Let's talk about the first.

Abbabubba is a disc of demos of songs, such as Rabbits and Dead Man’s Curve, that previously appeared on CDs like Nonstoperotik. The demos are different, nicely fleshed out versions that are just as strong as the “final” versions, especially Dead Man’s Curve.

There are also some tunes that have never officially been released before and several studio quality b-sides. Two standouts: Serious Curious, with its “curious” spoken word verses, and the whimsical Polly’s Into Me.

The set is notable for the inclusion of three versions of The Seus. First is the Infadels remix, which is a mishmash that, at least for this listener, mashes up the song almost beyond reason. The Charles Normal remix layers in synth strings, resulting in a track that would not have been out of place on Frank Black’s Teenager Of The Year. Then there’s the Bloc Party remix, which is a bona fide dance floor tune if ever there was one.

Abbabubba has a directness that’s refreshing and features artwork by Black Francis himself. It's a collection any serious fan would want to own. Released on alone, it would be great. But then there is The Golem.

The Golem is even more remarkable in many ways.

It is an original score by Black Francis for an old and unusual film of the same name. The film, a beautifully shot silent black and white released in 1920, was based on a screenplay by Paul Wegener, who also served as director.

It is set in the 16th century where we learn that a rabbi reads the stars and discovers that misfortune threatens his people. To protect them from persecution, he decides to fashion a giant “golem” out of clay. Unfortunately, the creature rebels and destroys the rabbi's Prague ghetto. The film is vivid and compelling, but not something many people have seen.

Enter the San Francisco International Film Festival, which asked Black Francis to score the film and perform it live for their annual 2008 festival. He did, marking the first and only time it has been performed live in its entirety.

That is too bad because the work is sublime. The Golem CD represents 18 tracks carefully chosen from the two discs’ worth of music that accompanied the film. It’s been called a rock opera, but there’s an elegant, jazzy feel to it that works. Some will no doubt wish there was some space between the releases. I'm just happy to have them.

Black Francis’s The Golem Rebels With A 9.2 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

If I was adding Abbabubba, it would land somewhere around a 6.7. Abbabubba is available on iTunes. On Amazon, look for Abbabubba (b-sides. etc.). You can also find the CD at Barnes & Noble.

The Golem is breathtaking and extraordinary. You can find the The Golem on Amazon, along with the DVD, called Black Francis: The Golem - A Film. For music downloads, The Golem is on iTunes. The CD is at Barnes & Noble. But just in case there is any doubt, you can get a taste of The Golem on Vimeo. DRPNP3K7U8R2
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