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Frank Black Classics
We conclude our Frank Black week with a look at two Frank Black classics. Zane tells us why "Teenager of the Year" is an overlooked gem and Patrick tells us why "The Cult of Ray," (Frank's tribute to Ray Bradbury) stands as his favorite album even produced by Mr. Black.

Teenager of the Year
By Zane Ewton

Frank Black spent most of the 1990's touring the country in a van with his band the Catholics. The Pixies never had it much better in their day, but as fate would have it, the Pixies have become alternative rock legends. Their name being noted by any band that has mattered since; not to mention countless bands who don't matter.

Maybe it was the way the Pixies broke up, allegedly by faxed message, which may have created some ill will towards the former Black Francis. The man went on to create some fantastic solo records that demonstrated more range and taste than any of the Pixies releases. It is a wonder why Kim Deal's Breeders are considered the biggest post-Pixies success with one song from an uneven album while Black has been able to play the music he wants, they way he wants to.

It is a crime that an album like Teenager of the Year wasn't a smash hit in the musical climate of 1994. Now, some ten years later, the Pixies have reunited and Black continues making the records he wants to make. How many artists are given the opportunity to appease the fans and their own ambition at the same time?

Teenager of the Year is one of those rare rock records that has so many good and strikingly different songs that it can be played backwards and forwards without losing any steam. Black is able to ruminate on topics as diverse as the video game Pong or the history of Los Angeles' water system. Black's influences aren't necessarily worn on his sleeve but ingrained into the fabric, becoming a totally different brand of rock music. That is what made the Pixies records so good, the classic feel matched with noises and ideas that you have never heard before.

Songs like "Thallassocracy" and "Headache" are immediate attention grabbers while other tracks like "The Vanishing Spies" or "Big Red" have such a mellow aloofness that they just float by on a cloud. The songs are all so brief that in some cases they are over before they even get started. For Yngwie Malmsteen fans, the brevity of the compositions would be unacceptable but for fans of just the meat (no time for potatoes) of a song, they will be elated with so much of this record.

Teenager of the Year is an overlooked gem. Considering the hubbub surrounding the Pixies, people tend to underestimate that Frank Black is one of the best and most effective songwriters of the last 20 years. Preview and Purchase This CD Online

The Cult Of Ray
By Patrick Muldowney

Most Pixies/Frank Black fans may not respect this opinion, but The Cult of Ray, which is about a decade from birth, stands as my favorite products in the decorated life of Frank Black. Of course, I am also the heretic who would tend to choose a Frank Black album over a Pixies album. Part of my love for this album may relate back to memories of college, but even years from its last listen (I'm more a Pistolero guy now), I distinctly remember how much the album rocked right through to the "The Last Stand of Shazeb Andleeb", an emotional masterpiece which immediately tugged on the androgyny in us all.

Titled as a tribute to Ray Bradbury, the illumination of Frank Black's Mr. Clean head during the promotion of this album was surreal. I will never forget betraying Heidegger to watch Frank Black make an appearance on MTV's 120 Minutes (I'll save my diatribe on the decline of MTV for another day), which was hosted by Matt Pinfield, another baldy who now pretends introducing Pussycat Dolls videos is fun on VH1. They looked like two bulbous bowling ball twins seated next to each other, but other than the fact they would have made a solid WWE tag team, this was the most memorable interview I've ever witnessed. Pinfield, who is a rock encyclopedia, was so smitten by the presence of Frank Black he kept staring at him longingly throughout the interview, and was coming dangerously close to invading his personal space. My roommate and I were placing bets on when Pinfield might smother him in chunky love. As he played an acoustic version of "The Last Stand…", which took the form of a love song that night, Mr. P looked like a school girl in the eighties dreaming away to Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting".

"Kicked in the Taco" may be my favorite Frank Black song. I often find myself recalling the opening lines, "Today at the New Morrocco/I got kicked in the taco/All I saw were stars," and realizing the universality of this feeling. All the way to the unexpected outro of "You got my message of love," this is a delectable treat that is too witty to be simply humorous. That is the wonder of Frank Black. If Adam Sandler sang some of his songs they would make great standup material, but when the artist formerly known as Black Francis sings he encompasses a whole other world, which makes a perfect bedfellow for the sci-fi adventure of The Cult of Ray.

This classic album has been oversimplified by critics throughout the years who consider The Pixies to be doctoral material, but rock is basic when you break down the false complexities these idiots have created, and regardless of Frank Black's more or less artsy material, he has a signature approach that is celebrated here.  - Preview and Purchase This CD Online

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