Frank Black's Smoking Gun

Frank Black and The Catholics - Pistolero
(spinART Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

"Death to The Pixies!", they cried. But strangely, it wasn't a cry of hate from the fans of this East Coast-based neo-punk, pre-alternative rock band, but rather an unusual display of affection from their adoring 'subacultcha'.
Although The Pixies eventually did succumb to death after breaking up in 1992 - 6 years and 5 stunning albums since their inception - the quirky, explosive nature of that band continues to live on through ex-lead-Pixie singer / songwriter / guitarist Frank Black's music.
Since 1993 Black has been releasing his own solo albums - some good, some great - which have taken the best elements of punk (angst-ridden vocals and noisy, bombastic arrangements), hard rock (pounding rhythms and scorching guitars) and pop rock (stick-to-the-roof-of-your-noggin choruses) and wrenched it all through his own twisted perspective of the world.
While his latest album Pistolero is actually his fifth solo release since the departure from his former band it's only his second with his latest backing band The Catholics, who consist of lead guitarist Rich Gilbert, bassist David McCaffrey and Scott Boutier on drums. On it Black and clergy shoot from the hip firing off round after round of lethal rock numbers that sounds something like the Talking Heads trying to make sense out of the blood-and-guts of Iggy and The Stooges.
While Pistolero was originally meant to be a larger production, with additional musicians and orchestration being overdubbed into the mix, the end result is a stripped-down studio production that was recorded live to 2-track, with no additional overdubs, in just two sessions totaling 10 days. This down-and-dirty method gives the album an overall live, spontaneous feel to it.
Gilbert's guitar buzzes around Black's yelps and screeches like an angry swarm of hornets on "I Switched You", while Black belts out his need for old-time fifties rock-n-roll music on the urgent punk song "I Want Rock & Roll". The softer side of Frank can be found on the catchy "You're Such A Wire" and "85 Weeks" with his bright acoustic guitar dappling a bit of sunshine over the odd tale of a man who stayed awake for 595 days. The chorus of "Skeleton Man" and spasmodic rhythm of "So. Bay" both ooze with the ectoplasm of The Pixies, and when Black brays out, "I've got some heaven in my head" on "I'm Starting To Lose It" we're all a little luckier that he's shared a slice of his heaven with us.
Death to Frank Black and The Catholics!

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