|By Zach Patterson||Sunday, 14 Jun 2009|
In the time since the Pixies broke up in the early 90′s, lead singer Black Francis/Frank Black has had no shortage of album releases. Now nearing 20 solo albums with various collaborators and of differing genres and quality, it has certainly not been hard to find material by Black. And as big of a fan of the Pixies that I am, I haven’t gotten into much of his solo stuff, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s just not Pixies-ish enough. Regardless, after the recent Pixies reunion, he returned to his Pixies stage name, something that caused me to impulse purchase his most recent EP, Svn Fngrs, in hopes that it would carry a bit of what made him so great with the Pixies. Thankfully, this is a genuinely enjoyable EP full of songs that most Pixies and Frank Black fans would appreciate.
The album starts off with a straight up bizarre half-rap/half-singing mishmash “The Seus” where Black proclaims he is the great Seus (no clue) and blurts out lines like “To the common scum/Who would have me tied between/Two semi trucks and torn asunder/After you time to screw/I hate you let me do do do your daughter”. I don’t know what he’s babbling on about and the song jumps off in a half dozen different directions, but somehow, it just works. It’s the strange, experimental kind of stuff that just works with a guy like Frank Black, and it recalls some of his weirder Pixies stuff (there’s a remix on youtube that’s pretty similar to the original if you’d like to indulge).
Speaking of the Pixies, the second song, “Garbage Heap” bears a striking resemblance to some of his old band’s material, and it’s no coincidence it’s also one of the most solid songs on the album. It clashes completely with the goofiness of the first track, but it has all the elements of a great Pixies song: Black using his melodic soft voice, a great opening guitar riff reminiscent of some other Pixies stuff, and female backing vocals. This is probably the best song on the album and worth getting the album for on its own, but luckily the rest of the album has some good stuff too. “Half Man” has Black’s voice hitting near ethereal high levels, while “I Sent Away” has a bit of a hard-edged surf rock feel to it mixed with some trademark Black sci-fi-ish paranoid lyrics (not to mention a sweet harmonica solo). Here’s the “official video” for the song, with Black just running in place for 2 minutes. It’s…uh…great.
As for the other highlights, “Seven Fingers” is a nice western saloon dancin’ tune with a great rambling bass line, and “When They Come to Murder Me” is an excellent album closer with a catchy chorus and again feeling a lot like some sort of unreleased Pixies song.
The album definitely has a lot of variety packed into 20 minutes, and while it is short, there’s also not a bad song on it. What I like most about it that while it is just another Frank Black solo album, this album succeeds in connecting his solo offerings with his Pixies material, whereas a lot of his other albums had a real disconnect between them in that aspect. If you like the Pixies and lament that there was no proper reunion album, perhaps this might be a good place to start to fill the void. As for me, this EP really impressed me, and I think I’ll soon be picking up the Black Francis full-length precursor, Bluefinger.