Frank Black, aka Black Francis, aka the prominent lead singer of alterna-gods the Pixies, has had a prolific and unpredictable solo career that’s finally being chronicled by Cooking Vinyl on the collection “93-03.”
The 23-song track list is done chronologically, and you can hear it too. It goes from punky and primal to the voice of a more mature soul-searcher.
Black’s 1993 self-titled solo debut is represented with four cuts here — the staggering, explosive “Los Angeles,” with its honeyed acoustic interludes, to the moody, visceral edge to “Czar” cranked to full volume and the orbital cow punk of “Old Black Dawning.”
“Teenager of the Year,” widely considered his best solo outing, has five songs here. It maintains the rock underpinnings while expanding its sound to give it depth and a sense of longing. “Headache” is a classic example of Black’s ability to cull unexpected results from his arrangements — making an acoustic song rock as hard as it would if it were electric. He throws everything into the mix on the glorious uprising of “Freedom Rock.”
By 1996's “The Cult of Ray,” and later “Frank Black and the Catholics” and “Pistolero,” Black was rebelling against industry standards and remembering his love for music by touring in a van and playing anywhere and everywhere. He fell in love with analog recording, resulting in music that was much more raw and spontaneous.
He got most of that out of his system by 2001's “Dog in the Sand,” adding varied instrumentation. But the CD closes with a brand-new track, “Threshold Apprehension,” off the forthcoming “Bluefinger” that’s a classic Black rave-up, making this retrospective seemingly come full circle.
Both by himself and with the Pixies, Black has never been a hit-maker. He’s always unabashedly done it for himself. History shows the ones who’ve stayed truest to their own visions are the ones who’ve contributed the most. Black has blazed an undeniable trail for all who’ve followed, and continues to do so.