The man of many names
(and Pixies frontman) returns with yet another project, issued next week by
Cooking Vinyl. The verdict? Though pleasantly chugging along on half a tank, it
still sounds better than most bands gunning at full throttle.
By Jonah Flicker
The dust from the mid-2000s Pixies reunion has long since
settled, but Black Francis/Frank Black/Charles Thompson keeps making records,
deterred by neither nostalgia nor cash flow. This is mostly a good thing, as he
recently proved with Grand Duchy, a dark, ‘80s-tinged project with his wife. NonStopErotik, however, while recorded
with the charming, no-frills, one-take urgency of much of his late-‘90s work,
pleasantly chugs along without gaining any real speed or traction.
Francis is joined by longtime collaborator Eric Drew
Feldman, who laces tracks like the softer “O My Tidy Sum” and the floating “Rabbits”
with a bed of ethereal keyboards that mark this is some of Francis’ lightest
work of the past few years. “Wild Son” is a straight-up Doors rip-off, an
interesting but distracting song that feels out of pace with the rest of the
album. But he flips the script in an unexpected and welcome move by infusing
the Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Wheels” with a driving rock beat and distorted
guitars, making it more Ramones than lazy country rock. “Dead Man’s Curve”
finds Francis releasing cathartic, throaty howls over a trad-rock chord
progression, further showcasing his love affair with the roots of rock and roll
and his faith in the ability of a couple of layered guitars a drum kit to move
the crowd. That’s when the album reaches its simple peaks of pleasure, when it
pogos minimally to power chords on songs like “Six Legged Man,” one of the best
tunes on the record.
Still, taken in the context of his lengthy and mostly
admirable catalogue, NonStopErotik doesn’t rank up there with Francis’ best. “When I Go Down On You” may tinker
with the cryptic Freudian psychosexual drama he repeatedly dealt with in the
Pixies, but the album’s visceral appeal lies in Stratocasters, not coitus. That
being said, Black Francis running on half a tank still sounds better than most
bands gunning at full throttle.