The Commuter’s Soundtrack

Posted November 8, 2007 in Music

Black Francis, Bluefinger (Cooking Vinyl)

Nobly, Frank Black tried his derndest to put together a Pixies reunion album on the heels of the big 2004 group hug, “but the quick fuck was awkward,” he states, and as of September 27, 2007, the band continues to trail off in a sort of elliptical dormancy. Meantime, he took a request to write a bonus track for a Pixies “Best Of” album and ran it into a full unintended album—Bluefinger—which is chock full of barging guitars, dirty-fella tensions and his ever-transferable iconoclastic mood. Only now he’s re-inverted the Frank Black moniker to his former Pixies-era stage persona, Black Francis, a handle his father suggested some 20 years ago for no apparent reason. Bluefinger, says FBF, is aided—nay, possessed—by the spirit Holland’s hard-drug-pro/muralist-painter/pianist Herman Brood, so inevitably a muse for the likes of Black that it’s at once obviously true. Especially when you consider that everything Black does has a Janus duality—every record, every song, every bridge, every note—just as with Brood. Here Black even redoes Brood’s “You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It,” and gives the mad Dutchman a proper send-off in the “Angels Come to Comfort You,” which ends more epically than Brood’s own life (he threw himself off the Amsterdam Hilton in 2001). Though it’ll get a mere whisper of the fanfare Doolittle did, Bluefinger is a fine vintage and more than a side-project—it’s that signature violent/soothing thing that tells you everything you need to know: Black Francis is back. (Chuck Mindenhall)


The Cult, Born Into This (Roadrunner)

The songwriting and stylistic chemistry between the Cult’s pragmatic guitarist Billy Duffy and mercurial mouthpiece Ian Astbury never recovered from the gargantuan success of their 1989 Sonic Temple opus. Subsequent releases have alternated between decidedly “Billy” offerings (epic riffs, detached demeanor) like 1991’s bloated Ceremony and overtly “Ian” efforts (style-over-substance adventures) like 1994’s brave folly The Cult. This time it’s Ian’s turn and Born Into This opens with tingling, stereotype-slaying promise: raw, front-and-center bass; boxy, un-metal drums; Astbury’s succulent, exotic yowl and Duffy’s majestic musicality rampant. Yet the disc’s highpoints are déjà vu (the title track aches to be Sonic Temple standout “Sweet Soul Sister”) and glimpses of the duo’s descending-progression, tragic/ecstatic magic are savaged by embarrassing Buckcherry-like single Dirty Little Rockstar and the jaw-droppingly dull/crap verses of “I Assassin.” Even still, Born Into This is one of top five hard rock albums of the year, yet barely makes the Cult’s top five albums. Do the math. (Paul Rogers)


LCD Soundsystem, 45:33 (DFA Records)

Most concept albums are pretty terrible, full of pontifications about what the future of a particular genre should hold, or dropping the sonic equivalent of an evangelical sermon on the current state of music. LCD Soundsystem’s new 45:33—which isn’t the running length of the album, so best we can figure it’s a hipster vinyl reference—is a concept album originally commissioned by Nike and previously only available on iTunes and was sold as an exercise soundtrack. It serves its purpose, but seems more an attempt by LCD frontman James Murphy to write a non-pop album. The tracks span everything from Italo to Murphy’s standard disco-punk, and strays away from his standard singles-driven approach. In fact, there are no singles on the album and it’s pleasantly lacking Murphy’s pretentiously angsty aging-hipster vocals. It’s nice for an exercise soundtrack—you don’t want to be listening to music that demands too much of your attention while you’re torturing yourself—but might make the album seem monotonous and overly conceptual for the uninitiated. (Phil Fuller)


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