POP / Chris Maume on pop

Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV, or Frank Black (below) as he prefers to be known, has always been a little strange. Like a character from David Byrne's True Stories, the former Pixie appears to inhabit a world where eccentricity is the modus vivendi, and outer space is just another shopping mall. In the record company biog he wrote for his most recent LP, Teenager of the Year, he laid out his preoccupations for inspection: 'I sang about the days of Martian terraformation, of 2016, and catapults along the Pacific equator. I sang about Telstar and when they put the billboards in orbit. I wondered why the truck drivers wouldn't talk to me, why the sci-fi channel took The Invaders off its latest rotation. And I declare all of you to look up and behold that pie in the sky.'

He has been chasing that pie in the sky since he advertised in Boston (he was called Black Francis then) for recruits to a 'Husker Du/Peter, Paul and Mary band'. The Pixies serenaded both sides of the Atlantic in the late Eighties with their structured abandonment, dispensing melody and abrasion in equal measure. Surfer Rosa, Doolittle and Bossanova formed a furious triptych, and it's no great discredit that Black has struggled to emulate such caustic majesty on his two solo double albums (another erstwhile Pixie, Kim Deal, is getting there with The Breeders). Teenager of the Year is his most relaxed work to date, his anger tempered by a new expansiveness, with shades of Lou Reed and J J Cale here and there (even - dare I say it - Dire Straits). See more of his fooling around tomorrow, on his only 1994 post-Reading date in this country.

Frank Black, Sat 17 Sept, Shepherd's Bush Empire (081-740 7474); LP Teenager of the Year (4AD)

(Photograph omitted)

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