Album review

Frank Black And The Catholics :
Show Me Your Tears

Cooking Vinyl

Frank Black And The Catholics : Show Me Your Tears Like The Velvet Underground, The Pixies were always the kind of band most honoured in the imitation. Everyone from Nirvana to Radiohead claimed influence, although the lineage wasn't always clear and the master never made it as big as the acolytes.
    But Show Me Your Tears sounds nothing like The Pixies, in any case. Frank Black's latest solo outing is bad-tempered rockabilly with catchy tunes and a big dose of voodoo, dirty as last month's sheets and scratchy as bedbugs.

Frank's had his heart broken all right. But instead of bleeding all over you, he's patched it together with sawdust and string and written these thirteen bits of rough magic in memory of Nadine, Lorraine or "misfortune in her stockings," whoever she may be. It's haunted, cinematic stuff, but it's closer to Tarantino than Lynch – there's a cool cynicism leavening the visionary regret and the songs sizzle with careful rhyme and dirty rhythm.

Fleshing out the regular band are guest musicians ranging from Pere Ubu's Eric Drew Feldman to Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago and veteran composer and arranger Van Dyke Parks. And everyone who ever howled at the moon seems to have given virtual blood to nourish this set of non-nonsense odes to desire and divorce. The Snake does Lou Reed better than he ever did; Nadine has all the raw, carnivorous lust of a Polly Jean Harvey; Manitoba seems to summon the sozzled remains of Shane McGowan, minus the Irish brogue.
    It's swing from the dark side, a ceilidh from hell, the sound of someone line dancing their way out of danger. Recorded live and unedited to two-track, Show Me Your Tears substitutes musicianship for production, emotion for attitude. And it's all about escaping; not from pain, not from Death, but maybe from constraint. "I'll take off with my worries and I'll even let Death drive, we're sure to get there dead or alive," Mr Black croons with relish in This Horrible Day. The destination doesn't matter – but the road looks damned enticing.

MTV reported recently that a Pixies reunion was finally on the cards for April next year – followed, all being well, by a new album. Whether rumour becomes reality remains to be seen; it's a story we've all heard before. In the meantime, you could do an awful lot worse than to stick this into your car stereo and glue the thing shut.

:: Clare O'Brien

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