Rhythm & Views

Frank Black, Black Francis

Black Francis is the alias of Pixies frontman Charles Thompson (later Frank Black). Frank Black Francis is a double-disc, the first of which is called the "Demo Disc" and has Black Francis playing songs on an acoustic guitar into producer Gary Smith's cassette Walkman the day before the Pixies were to begin recording what would become the Come on Pilgrim EP at Fort Apache with Smith. You can hear Black explaining a bit about how he wants the songs to sound ("This is the one I want to sound like Husker Du," he says during the intro to "Caribou"), and songs like "Subbacultcha" and "Vamos"--both of which were released on later Pixies albums--sound almost like folk songs on just an acoustic guitar.

To contrast the pre-demo demos, Frank Black gave some vocal tracks to the Two Pale Boys, Andy Diagram and Keith Moliné, who recreated classic Pixies songs with trumpets, electronic synthesizers and strings. Dubbed the "Treated Disc," it's by far the more interesting of the two; the Two Pale Boys explore the songs' darker, lighter and stranger sides with the help of creative arrangements. "Wave of Mutilation" and "Is She Weird" venture into prog rock, and "Nimrod's Son" develops a Modest Mouse pulse. "The Holiday Song" becomes a marching band number on horns, and "Monkey Gone to Heaven," with its bubbly synth effects, sounds like a French pop song.

Frank Black Francis explores two extreme forms of Pixies songs: the raw, embryonic conservative, and the orchestrated, overly developed liberal. The songs reveal themselves in both forms to be just as brilliant and weird as the originals.

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