Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Frank Black & the Catholics|
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, World Music, Pop, Rock
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Short but Sweet
Omer Belsky | Haifa, Israel | 09/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Even the most cursory listening to Frank Black's recent music will show a significant change, most noticeably since 2001's excellent Dog in the Sand. Frank has abandoned the Punk sound that was constant through the youthful enthusiasm of Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa, the Pop brilliance of Doolittle, the Alternative and experimental first two solo records, and the hard rocking first two Catholic records. Although in concert Frank has often retained the Punk sound, in his recordings, he has become 'The Man Who Was Too Loud', trading Punk with Folk, Roots Rock and Country influences.When in 2002, Frank released two albums in the same time, critics and fans alike saw the longer piece (Black Letter Days), as the mellower, folkyier album, while the Devil's Workshop was perceived as the hard rock, return-to-the-pixies-style album.Although the observation is not without merit, it is deeply misleading. While Devil's Workshop is somewhat more rock oriented then Black Letter Days, it very much represents the Frank Black of 2002. Not returning to the harder rockin' Frank of Doolittle or even Pistolero, this album is mostly filled with mid tempo rockers, and the only great different from Black Letter Days is the widespread use of distortion. It is the quality of the execution that makes this, like most of Frank's work, a very worthwhile collection of songs.Perhaps the single most important reason for the `return to the Pixies' comments is the inclusion of a song which previously appeared as a Pixies B-side. Velvety, apparently written as an instrumental when Frank was 16. The addition of fun and intriguing lyrics, and especially of Frank's acoustic guitar make this track a grand improvement on the Pixies' version, and one of the best Frank songs of the last few years (the Acoustic guitar is truly brilliant. It shows a degree of subtlety that many Punk Rock acts should learn from). It is also the hardest rocking Frank Black song since `Pistolero'.Although the Catholics are a wonderful band, they sometimes fit too comfortably into Frank's more standardized songwriting. There is nothing wrong with `Out of State', but there is nothing truly remarkable about it, either. Verses and Choruses, with fairly standard guitar solos in the middle.However, `His Kingly Cave' is hardly ordinary. Easily the best song on this CD, His Kingly Cave is a strong narrative about a visit to Graceland, where the long gone presence of the King makes Frank reminiscent about death. Over the background of some of the most powerful music Frank has ever written, with fantastic guitar work by Joey Santiago, Frank sings about slowly creeping discomfort 'they went to celebrate they went to have a ball/everyone gathered at the gates but it wasn't good at all'. The visit was not what they expected 'the sky was turning gray... their skin began to crawl'. In death, there is no turning back 'they closed the gates and the scene was set/ enter into his kingly cave'. Finally, the visitors flee 'when the shuttle bus is called', but still, Frank is voicing for the dead 'I scream, I scream, for aaaaalllllll'It took me a long while to get into San Antonio, TX, a real story about the illness of Frank's then wife. I thought it sounded too much like 'The End of Miles' and 'St. Francis Dam Disaster'. But this fan favorite grew on me with multiple listening.Speed Bartholomew up a lot, add some screams, and it's a Pixies track. Surprisingly, then, I don't like it that much. A song about God, Sex and Death, with a memorable melody. It should be a classic, but for me at least it isn't.On `The Blacksessions + the Kitchen Tapes' a live album documenting Frank Black's Teenager tour, appears an acoustic version of `Modern Age'. Now, there is finally a band version, but it sadly disappoints. The song simply is not Catholic style - and does not work.I am not the only one to find the sound quality in `Devil's Workshop' disappointing. There has been many speculations about the cause, whether the blame is the famous live-to-2 track recording, or the equipment, but the results are rather poor. Nowhere is this more evident then on `Are You Headed My Way?', a straight-forward Honky-Tonkying Rockabilly song. It is fun and fast, catchy and traditional. But the sound of the instruments blur and the distortion is everywhere. Worse, you can hardly hear the sublime piano of Eric Drew Feldman.Next, Frank hits us with one of the best songs on this CD, `Heloise'. Strangely sounding utterly original and classic at the same time, the love story of Heloise and Abelard is a classic Black subject, featuring wonderful little guitar lines, surf rock chord progression, and hallows from Frank as he croons the title over and over. `Heloise' is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs in Frank's career.Even for an artist known for his subtlety (check out `The Swimmer' on Dog in the Sand, or the Epigrams in `Ana' and `Speedy Marie'), The Scene is wonderfully underplayed. Despite the absences of clear melodic or lyrical motives, the song is both exciting and sad. `Black Letter Days' and `Show Me Your Tears' are filled with sad songs, but rarely has Frank managed to convey the feel of the song with so few words or downright depression minor chords.
I'm afraid that `Whisky in Your Shoes', a bar blues song about the death of a child, simply does not do this to me, despite what it may reveal about Frank's psyche. `The Fields of Marigold' is much better, with hard distortion beginning, turning into a romantic and melodic grand final as Frank sings about Norwegian Heaven.From a `value for money' standpoint, there are better Frank Black bargains then Devil's Workshop. But for the true fans, it is a necessity, and a worthy addition to one of Rock'n'Roll `s most impressive catalogues."
Easier to get into than its companion album
Nathan M DeHoff | Absurd City | 02/20/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 2002, Frank Black released two albums on the same day: this and Black Letter Days. Of the two, I think this is the more easily accessible one. It tends to be more upbeat, and a lot of the songs are just catchy. To me, the pair of "Modern Age" and "Are You Heading My Way?" really shows off this catchiness. Perhaps the true highlight of the album, however, is the leading song, "Velvety." This song originally showed up as a Pixies B-side, but now it's a finished song, with lyrics reminiscent of "Velouria." From what I've heard, they're about a girl from the lost continent of Lemuria, who now lives under Mount Shasta near Weed, California. It's based on an old Rosicrucian legend, but you don't need to know that to enjoy the song. That's one thing I like about Frank's songs. The songs are enjoyable when the listener has no idea what the lyrics are about, but, if you enjoy doing a little research (and a little is really all it takes; the songs don't usually get into THAT much depth), there's some interesting stuff to find out. While Devil's Workshop isn't my favorite Frank album, it's a great showcase of his work."
Author Brian Wallace (Mind Transmis | Texas | 01/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like taking the best of classic Stones, Dylan and Johnny Cash...putting the gems into a blender, adding a psychedelic potion to the better modern sounds available and setting to stir. You remove a magical audible substance that combines elements of country, folk, rock and space age sonic that blows away tons of other stuff at the music store bins.Though I prefer Black Letter Days, this one is certainly well worth the buy. Frank Black is doing some of the most relevant music around."