Rhythm & Views

Frank Black

Honeycomb was recorded in a few days in Nashville with the likes of Steve Cropper, Reggie Young, David Hood, Anton Fig and Spooner Oldham, and produced by Jon Tiven (B.B. King, y'all). So, it sounds like what you'd expect: a well-played, laid-back, weird mish-mash of Black's signature pop songs and country. What you may not expect is for it to work. It's odd ... but it works, because, like a true socialist system, everyone puts in just the right amount of what they have to offer--not too much Frank Black, not too much Nashville.

The Nashville studio musicians' investment in the songs on Honeycomb is obvious: The music is clean, and authentically Nashville. It sounds like the middle of America at peak season: slightly humid, a palette of colors. Cropper's guitar is unmistakably Cropper, and that bright reverb alongside Black's vocals is the border between Black's post-Pixies rock and the session musicians' Americana.

Lyrically, this is Black's most straightforward record yet: There are no surreal images, and the quirk levels are low. These are songs about heartbreak (no surprise, seeing as Black wrote most of the songs after his divorce--one is even named for his ex-wife), but they are by no means depressing. "Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day" has Black singing, "You'll be king of what you survive," and on "My Life Is in Storage," "I was trying for the sake of the night not to be too depressed." The first part of "My Life is in Storage" is pure Frank Black, but then Cropper's guitar sings sadly and sweetly through to the end. The balance between the musical voices is what makes Honeycomb as utopian a system as its namesake.

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