Listen Up: Wednesday, August 24, 2005
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Frank Black

Honeycomb (Back Porch Records)

By Jimmy Fowler

Even into middle age, ex-Pixies frontman Frank Black looks like the chubby latchkey kid from sixth grade who, after school, nukes bugs and lizards in his parents’ microwave for fun. Come to think of it, he’s performed onstage like that kid all his adult life — albeit after learning to deal with his rage issues by screaming tortured, surprisingly clever, sometimes eloquent self-penned lyrics into his mic.

Honeycomb is his first solo project in nine years, recorded in quick Nashville sessions on the eve of last year’s Pixies reunion. The record company jokingly refers to it as Black on Blonde, a reference to the artist’s Dylanian flirtation with acoustic American folk-country traditions. But Honeycomb is pokier, oddly sweeter, and, even in its most acrid self-lacerations, tinged with the self-deprecating humor that Dylan has never bothered to acquire.

Black also proves to be a mellow, even amiable crooner who might be able to score a contemporary country chart if, well, he wasn’t Frank Black. Tunes like “I Burn Today” and “Violet” manage to coat the sharp edges of acoustic bass and harmonica with the honey-thick warmth that the album’s title suggests. “Another Velvet Nightmare” is an ode to the Velvet Underground that reminds us how close those Factory kids could get to tear-in-beer-drenched saloon Saturday nights. Which brings us to the major problem with Honeycomb — it’s impressive mostly because it’s a surprising detour in which Black gets so close to a genre that doesn’t come naturally to him. Compulsively listenable though it is, the disc belongs in the novelty bin.


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