Let’s be honest, Black Francis isn’t that sexy, but he does write a lot about sex (usually the depraved, lustful, low-fantasy brand of sex) but sex none the less. His obsession with the topic can be traced back to the early days of the Pixies (I’ve Been Tired anyone?) but his latest in a remarkably long line of solo albums, NonStopErotik, is the most upfront about its subject matter. As you can tell by the charming title, NonStopErotik is primarily a sex album, but it’s less gross than you’d probably think.
It’s difficult to keep up with erstwhile Pixies frontman Black Francis (born Charles Thompson, AKA Frank Black.) As the chief songwriter with the Pixies, he was at the forefront of the “alternative” wave of modern rock in the early ‘90s. Since the Pixies split, he’s released 19 recordings, credited to Black Francis, Frank Black, Frank Black and the Catholics, Grand Duchy and now again as Black Francis, including the recently released five-disc score to the 1920 silent film The Golem. The newest Black Francis release, Nonstoperotik, finds him working once again with frequent collaborator Eric Drew Feldman behind the boards.
Between 1987 and 1993, Pixies released four records and one EP that changed indie music. Between 1993 and the present, Pixies singer Black Francis (aka Frank Black, formerly Charles Thompson, now Black Francis again) has released over a dozen discs under various names and with various collaborators-- some more noteworthy than others, but none changing much of anything. Indeed, changing things hasn't seemed to be part of his agenda-- if not with his first band, then certainly not since, as his solo releases and side projects tend to look more to the past for inspiration than to the future.
An album of Black Francis songs inspired by sex might seem unexpected, but it’s never been a taboo topic in his music. Many of the Pixies’ best songs dealt with knowing someone in the biblical sense -- literally, in the case of “Dead” and “Nimrod’s Son,” to name just two. It’s a given that an album of erotic songs by Black Francis won’t be the same as one by, say, Barry White, but even by Francis’ own standards, NonStopErotik deals with its subject matter as elliptically as possible.
Ranging fitfully between menacing and melodic, Black Francis’s Nonstoperotik generally fulfills the promise of its title, delving both overtly and suggestively into the seamier edges of the singer-songwriter’s psyche. Songs that apply the usual creepy perversity that leaks into most of Francis’s material, more about mood and tone than actual content, fare best. Explicitly ribald material, whether delivered with cheeky bombast (“When I Go Down on You”) or the barely veiled lechery of the more sweetly inclined title track feel like unnecessary pushes into boldface territory.
Surely set to be one of the Pixies main man’s strongest solo albums. Martin Longley 2010 As the Pixies tour still wends its gradual way around the globe, their main man releases what is surely set to be one of his strongest Black Francis albums. Or, indeed, one of his strongest Frank Black albums. Co-producer Eric Drew Feldman had been holding on to an old black guitar that a fan had given Francis at a San Francisco club.