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Black Francis:: Bluefinger (Album Review)

The unlikely, ghoulish inspiration of a dead Dutch pop star has forced Pixies’ frontman Frank Black into making his finest album since the demise of his influential ’90s alt.rockers. Because that’s what ‘Bluefinger’ is. Pixies fanatics will probably attribute this to the revival of the Black Francis name he used as a nomme de guerre in the Pixies. Black himself is fully aware of the significance. In an open letter accompanying the new album, he writes “I couldn’t get the Pixies back into a studio, but I would transform into my alter ego of yesteryear.” In fact, the true reason for this artistic Indian summer is that the Pixies’ dark lyrical conceits have been awakened by the subject of much of the album’s content, Herman Brood (pronounced ‘Broat’). In 2001, Dutch rocker, artist and renowned hedonist Brood threw himself from the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton. After a stint in rehab, Brood had just been told he had only months to live. As Black points out on ‘Angels Come To Comfort You’, the hotel was “…good enough for John and Yoko, man” (it was the scene of The Beatle’s famous ‘bed-in’). Black sees Brood, like Lennon, as something of a musical auteur, a man of style. The album kicks off in rollicking fashion. ‘Captain Pasty’ finds Black in yelping, screeching mode, atop two minutes of punk guitars and machine-gun drums. ‘Your Mouth In Mine’, with its jangly, chiming guitars doing battle with passages of rumbling bass, transports the listener back to the day when Pixies, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr and co ruled the alt.rock earth. Elsewhere, ‘Tight Black Rubber’, with its languid, nagging bassline and ‘Threshold Apprehension”s screaming garage rock, shine. Only the lumpen pace of ‘Test Pilot Blues’ fails to fully fire. But that’s a minor, unwarranted moan. After years in the dark, this is a slice of Black gold.