Frank Black

When Frank Black was first whelped from the rib of Black Francis following the premature demise of the Pixies a decade and a half ago, he came on like a man with a hell of a lot to prove. Those first two solo records were slick, eclectic, somewhat overwrought affairs that seemed to positively revel in FB's newfound ability to replace the, um, limited instrumental technique of his former bandmates with those of "real" players with "real" chops. Those discs (and pretty much all subsequent Black material), while inarguably the finely-honed product of a talented auteur, somehow always failed to connect with an audience the way the Pixies' stuff had. Things are different now: The recent, high-profile, hugely successful reunion of that legendary band seems to have freed Black's mind, and to all appearances his ass seems to be following. The mellow, quietly eccentric Honeycomb (2005, Back Porch) was easily the most relaxed the man has ever sounded, but that was just a prelude to the soulful, all-embracing new Fastman Raiderman CD, an effortless-seeming singer-songwriter showcase by a modern master who's taken a raucous, circuitous path to finally uncover the warm, unhinged voice that was always there waiting.
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Scott Faingold