Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'd Love to Turn You On #39 - Frank Black – Teenager of the Year

Some critics tend to discount the last two Pixies’ albums (Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde) as the dying sputters of a band on its last leg. To indulge these opinions is unfortunate as these two albums show chief songwriter and vocalist Black Francis continuing to sharpen his focus and abilities. In hindsight, Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde foreshadowed the departure of Black Francis the Pixie, and the rise of Frank Black the solo artist. Black’s path is one any fan of the Pixies should follow and one that eventually leads to the sprawling 1994 masterpiece Teenager of the Year.
At 22 tracks, Teenager might seem daunting or potentially bloated with filler, but there is an astounding lack of misses. From the blistering one-two punch of “Whatever Happened To Pong?” and “Thalassocracy” to the playful use of Spanglish in “Calistan” and “Olé Mulholland,” fans of the Pixies will see it’s all here. Black’s lyrical obsession with space, science-fiction and the desert landscape of the Southwestern United States are everywhere in songs like “Fazer Eyes,” “Space Is Gonna Do Me Good,” and “Sir Rockaby.” Musically, the album shows Black fleshing out his unique vision and playing with his trademark styles – surf, rockabilly, punk and acoustic-driven rock – and throwing in a heavy dose of rip-roaring leads (a few of which are contributed by Pixies veteran Joey Santiago). Black even attempts piano-driven reggae on “Fiddle Riddle” and pulls it off with aplomb.
More can be said about Teenager of the Year and Frank Black’s influence on contemporary rock music, but pontificating would ultimately distract from the point. Simply put: If you are a fan of the Pixies and you haven’t heard this album, I highly recommend it.
Paul Custer

1 comment:

Pop Culture Blog said...

Such an amazing record - from start to finish. TOTY should be required listening for anyone wishing to embark on a career as a songwriter. From the intro one-two punch of "Whatever Happened to Pong" and "Thalassocracy" through to the end - that rarest of albums: every track is solid.