Music Reviews

Frank Black and The Catholics

Show Me Your Tears


For Pixies fans who still can’t get over Black Francis’s (aka Frank Black, aka Charles Thompson) career path in the years since the group’s demise, Show Me Your Tears will be the final, irrevocable act of betrayal. Its sound is as pure, anguished, blues-rock as you can get – a million miles away from The Pixies’ frenzy and wallop, and an excellent album in its own right. Unfortunately, it seems to have come at a price, spurred by the dark muses unleashed during therapy sessions. “[H]ere they are. Thirteen big, salty tears,” writes Black in the accompanying press release. “There isn’t a happy song in this bunch.”

No, there may not be a happy song in this bunch, but there isn’t a weak song among them either. Although little could top Teenager of the Year, Show Me Your Tears could be Black’s best album with The Catholics. The majority of the songs are single-worthy, if not exactly mainstream radio friendly: “Everything Is New,” with its bluesy piano flourishes and coarse slide guitar; “Massif Centrale,” in which Black launches into his shaky falsetto for a verse or two; the jaunty, countrified “Goodbye Lorraine”; and, the timeless acoustic ballad “Coastline.” The confidence and uniformity here also seem to signify that Black no longer harbors doubts about his much-debated departure from the alt-rock scene he helped establish in the late Eighties: if he listened to his critics, he’d still be turning out variations on the theme of Doolittle, to no one’s benefit.

All thirteen tracks were recorded live to two-track with no edits in Black’s mobile Los Angeles studio, just as he and his band have been doing for the past four years or so. The process has become something of a modus operandi and a point of pride for Black and his semi-permanent hired guns. Whereas the group’s 1999 eponymous album exuded a rough-around-the-edges charm due to the same process, the songs on Show Me Your Tears are all highly polished, proof that the band is as cohesive as ever, without necessarily sacrificing spontaneity or speed of output. (Following Tom Waits’s lead, Black and The Catholics released two contemporaneous albums, Black Letter Days and Devil’s Workshop, just last year.)

If you still find yourself rocking back and forth on the carpet with Bossanova or Surfer Rosa eternally looped on the hi-fi, this might be the best opportunity to accept The Pixies’ break-up and reconcile yourself with Black. Show Me Your Tears is a fine record by anyone’s standards and a refreshing sonic change to the synthetic, amped-up drivel in proliferation today, which, ironically enough, owes a large part of its dubious existence to The Pixies and Black himself.

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