Album: Frank Black <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Honeycomb, COOKING VINYL
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The Independent Culture

Since his last solo album, 1996's The Cult Of Ray, Frank Black's career has been in freefall through the unrewarding years spent fronting The Catholics. Things have recently improved thanks to the Pixies reunion, which should draw a little more attention to this latest solo outing, his best effort in ages. Honeycomb was recorded in Nashville with a select crew of Southern soul sessioneers incorporating the Muscle Shoals' rhythm section, legends Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and an all-star guitar strike-force of Steve Cropper, Reggie Young and Buddy Miller. The tracks were nailed in just one or two takes, and their relaxed facility works to the songs' advantage, smoothing the way for such oddities as the astro-physical metaphor of "Atom In Your Heart" ("you burn inside me like a star") and the startling opening lines of "Another Velvet Nightmare" ("Today I felt my heart slide into my belly/So I puked it up with liquor"). Just Frank's usual gamut of sci-fi, shock-horror and sub-aquatic kitsch, in other words, set to a slew of country-soul grooves studded with pithy lead guitar. "Strange Goodbye", a break-up duet with Jean Black, could pass muster as a country standard; but the most charming thing here is a cover of Penn's soul standard "Dark End Of The Street", taken in Black's disarmingly sweet upper-register - the voice of a fallen angel, even.

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