Frank Black And The Catholics: The Complete Recordings

Exhaustive six CD comp of Pixies frontman’s side project.

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After The Pixies, and before there was The Pixies again when the obvious good reasons to reunite temporarily became irresistible, there was Frank Black And The Catholics. Between 1997 and 2003, the group released six albums, all bashed out on two-track recorders to lend them a raw urgency.

For this collection, Black has elected not to present the tracks in chronological order but alphabetically, as if to imply that there was a binding ethos rather than an evolution to the Catholics. There’s no attempt to guide the new listener, or spare them some of the more indifferent material.

Absolutely everything is here, plus alternative takes and unreleased tracks, such as their version of Bob Dylan’s Changing Of The Guards, dragged backwards through a punky hedge. Ideas feel torn off and spat out.

Fortunately, it’s mostly terrific stuff, if not always Pixies calibre – Le Cigar Volante sounds like a Cockney Rebel tribute, the trundling, acoustic blues of Constant Sorrow Man references the folk song played by the Soggy Bottom Boys in O Brother Where Art Thou?, Bartholomew sounds like a manic John Lennon outtake from Let It Be while The Swimmer, soaked in keyboards and telling the story of a man bent on departing America, is a typically odd left turn.

Bespoke and eccentric yet sprawling across all of the vast terrain of Anglo-American rock from Big Star to the Stones, Hüsker Dü to Dylan, this is a collection you might find hard to contemplate immersing yourself in, but once you’re in, equally hard to clamber out of./o:p

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.