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Frank Black

Honeycomb (Back Porch Records/Virgin)

For this particular fan, the Pixies' reunion tour, 2005 edition, was a bit underwhelming. It was nice to see the group receive some long overdue recognition, but the players seemed hemmed in by the restrictions placed upon them by the large, nostalgia-hungry crowd. This impression was reinforced by Honeycomb, in which front man Black revels in the opportunity to do something completely unexpected.

The album was recorded in Nashville with guitarist Steve Cropper and a slew of veteran studio pros, and the sound they arrive at is clean and casual. Black's excitement at being in their presence is tangible, yet instead of responding with self-consciousness, he radiates an unruffled confidence that brings out the best in an excellent gaggle of covers ("Song of the Shrimp") and rootsy originals ("Selkie Bride"). As for the concluding number, its lyrical grimness is balanced by the thrill of performance referenced in its title: "Sing For Joy."

Black will make a lot more bread by rendering old Pixies numbers than he will from this disc. But Honeycomb tastes a lot sweeter.

 
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