By: Eric G.
After pioneering the Pixies, one of the most influential college rock bands in the pre-Nevermind era, Frank Black has with each release dulled the edge of his poison pen and distanced himself from the pinnacle of his writing powers. Sadly, he is now a generic singer/songwriter with a proficient but run of the mill backing band with a batch of slightly quirky, rocking songs. I try to retrace his steps to see where it all went wrong, but I can’t pinpoint an exact song or album, necessarily- it's just been a slow decline. Being dropped by Elektra records back in 1994 after Teenager Of The Year seems to be the beginning of the end because when Black resurfaced with The Cult of Ray on American Recordings in 1996 he had long since been left in the dust by the very bands he had influenced.
Black shopped his current record to more than twenty labels after American let him go. It took him two years, but Spin Art finally accepted the album, which was recorded in a matter of days to two tracks. The result is uneventful. It's mostly due to Black's half-hearted vocal delivery. He never reaches the heights of frantic lunacy that characterized his stint in the Pixies. The schizophrenic loud/quiet dynamics that he practically invented have all but disappeared- replaced with an emphasis on mediocre melodies that rarely go anywhere. I though maybe I needed to give the album a few more listens, but it just made the bad news sink in deeper. It's hard to imagine that the man whose genius spawned Surfa Rosa could ever lose his touch, but Frank Black and The Catholics proves exactly that.