Frank Black -- Teenager of the Year

(4AD/Elektra)

Published by KADE Magazine June 16, 1994

The Pixies were some weird amalgam of art and garage rock. They crammed busloads of chaos into intricately structured spaces. Yet, obviously feeling restricted by a rhythm section whose idea of tricky was speeding up and slowing down, chief Pixie Black Francis changed his pseudonym and hired musicians who could play the strangeness he heard in his head.

Unfortunately, he also seemed to have left his more useful hooks back in the garage, because last years Frank Black was full of neat fragments which never quite added up into memorable songs. It may have sounded like the Pixies--that mutable voice remained--but it didn't capture their big heart. Said heart turned up on the cover of 1993's most pleasant surprise: the Breeders Last Splash--a divinely hammering collection of summery fucksongs.

Well, he must have got a lot of the artiness out of his system, because Teenager of the Year finds Frank Black back in his personal groove. As in the old days, he's made sure to cram the songs full of hooks and lead guitar, so this time all of his nonlinear musical juxtapositions work. A song like "Freedom Rock" opens with a quote from late 60's Who, drops into a brief white-reggae bridge and closes with a pure pop singalong chorus. And so it goes for over an hour.

By this time of course, Frank Black knows he's basically preaching to the choir: with 22 songs full of pong, space aliens and Southern California, he ain't gonna gain any new conver--even if he gets ongs like "Headache" or "Fazer Eyes" on the radio. Nevertheless, it's heartening to see him back at the top of his game, because his wrinkle in time is some kinda place to be.

--Jim Connelly

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This document last modified 05 July, 1995.
I was listening to Patti Smith -- Radio Ethiopia.