Black Francis – Bluefinger

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I don’t know why Charles Thompson IV, after years of solo material under the Frank Black name, chose to return to the Pixies-era alias of Black Francis for this solo release. It is the closest his solo work has sounded to the Pixies, to be sure, but I’m not sure that’s a rationale. I have chosen to classify this under “Black, Frank” in my collection because: 1) it’s not worth the effort to make a separate space for it under the Fs (I am not inclined to keep distinct entries for every different stage name Thompson adopts); and 2) I am not convinced Black Francis would go under “Francis, Black” anyway, as it is not really a proper name and should probably go in the “Black” section of the Bs regardless. Of course, under that logic, Frank Black should not be in the Bs itself, and should be in the Fs. And what does this mean for Dylan and (relatedly) John Wesley Harding? Fuck it all.

What I Think of This Album

The old familiar yowl is back! On this concept album inspired by Dutch artist and musician Herman Brood (pronounced Broat, I have it on internet authority), Black Francis returns to his roots and produces some of most bracing and direct music of his solo career, with more than one nod to the sound of his old band.

Nowhere more evident is this than on the deceptively simple “Threshold Apprehension,” where Francis repeatedly screeches “threshold” – and basically screams the rest of the lyrics; eventually “Alec Eiffel”-like keyboards enter and exude a calming influence on the fray. Consistent with this blueprint, “Angels Come to Comfort You“ (which takes a matter-of-fact approach to Brood’s suicide off the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton) is a very un-Pixieish country shuffle, but it is gilded by an extended wordless choral outro, equal parts ghostly and heavenly, that easily could have been something Francis and Kim Deal would have collaborated on. And opening track “Captain Pasty” sounds like a Trompe Le Monde leftover, with its garagey bass line and Francis’s throaty growl.

Elsewhere, the album is similar to Black’s solo work, for better (harmonica heavy “Lolita;” the carnal, driving “Your Mouth Into Mine;” “Discotheque 36;” the brooding title track) or worse (the actually-not-that-bad “Test Pilot Blues;” plodding “Tight Black Rubber,” which unwisely boasts “I’m all killer / No filler”). Francis’ spouse, Violet Clark, adds some nice harmonies throughout, but most notably on “She Took All the Money.” Francis also covers one of Brood’s songs:  the punkish “You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It,” giving it a good screaming treatment. Bluefinger is apparently how residents of Brood’s hometown, Zwolle, are slangily referred to (Blauwvingers). This is Black’s second-best solo album, falling short of Teenager of the Year by a thumb’s width.

The Best Thing About This Album

The vocals on “Threshold Apprehension.”

Release Date

September, 2007

The Cover Art

Average. Painted by one Julian Clark, who might be related to Francis’ wife (and might be a child?). It’s not ugly by any means, but it’s also not particularly intriguing. The text is ok. What is more annoying is that the packaging is smaller than standard sized (this image suggests there is a larger white border around the art than there really is) and the disc can get lost amidst its sistren in my collection.

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