Black Francis – Bluefinger – Review

blackfrancis200Black Francis

Bluefinger (Cooking Vinyl)
By Scott Deckman

If Herman Brood lived half the life that inspired Bluefinger, Frank Black’s return to rock in a big way, then that Dutch avant-garde rocker-turned-painter lived a life that Nikki Sixx would have envied. But unlike Sixx, Brood didn’t survive his dance with death, jumping off the Hilton Amsterdam’s roof in 2001. A rock God in the Netherlands, he isn’t known very well in the States, but lucky for us, Black is here to help fill in the blanks.

And a triumphant return to punk-inspired rock isn’t the only thing changed with this record, either. Charles Thompson wants to be called Black Francis again, the moniker he wore during his glory days leading the Pixies, one of the greatest bands in history. But to describe Bluefinger as a return to the Pixies as some are saying would be an insult to just how unique this record really is. This is the first album that Black really embraces – not just namedrops – Iggy Pop. You can literally picture the shirtless one prancing the stage like a streetwalking cheetah on some of these tunes, and it’s good, jerk. “Threshold Apprehension” represents Black at his irritatingly best, as he odds up a pure pop song with just enough Francis to keep it off the radio or MTV or… you get the point. And new wife Violet Clark’s backing vocals are as sexy as a new wave vampire, highlighting what some have said about him, that his Adonis always needed an Aphrodite to balance his ballast.

“Lolita” is a tuneful take on Nabokov’s tale – at least I think it is – and comes off as sympathetic as you could want. Of course, people familiar with his oeuvre certainly know that Black likes to have his sex and eat it too, just check out “Tight Black Rubber,” a song with a riff so virile and muscular that you can’t get it out your head. He’s all killer and no filler alright. “Your Mouth into Mine” continues the sex obsession, but here he takes a page from The Strokes, of all people, with a bouncy baseline bursting through the speakers. This is some seriously good shit. “You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It,” the lone Brood cover, might be the hardest rocking thing on Bluefinger, showcasing Black’s roar like an instrument of terror on the blasé modern rock scene. And here, Clark’s backing vocals are sexy and understated, something you could say about that “other” woman in his life, the one he wasn’t married to.

While “Threshold Apprehension” might be the album’s single – at 5:14 no less, it’s “Angels Come to Comfort You” that is the record’s heart, an Iggy Pop Lust for Life-era eulogy for Brood’s reckless life. And in what could be titled eulogy part two, album namesake “Bluefinger” finds him again backed beautifully by Clark on a Pogues-like tribute close in spirit to 2003’s Show Me Your Tears‘ “Manitoba,” which, incidentally, closed that album, too. The song features the chorus “If my choices are poor. Well, I made them. I made them/And who’s knocking on my door? I pay them. I pay them,” a junkie’s honest lament of damage earned in a tumultuous life he doesn’t regret. It’s not a return to the Pixies, but who cares? When it’s all said and done, this record may be poised to sit alongside Frank Black and Teenager of the Year as the apogee of his solo career. Only time will tell.