As the Pixies Doolittle tour slices into the eyeball of its second year, chief Biblical screamer Black Francis hasn’t let his ‘old band’ activities put a dent in his ferocious solo output
Exhibiting the work ethic of a News Of The World file shredder, in 2010 he released a five-disc soundtrack to the movie The Golem and a studio album NonStopErotik, written and recorded in a matter of days.
Here he unites with NYC blues-folk growler Reid Paley for a rootsy record of first takes that was even more expediently fathered – written in three days, recorded in two. Francis’ slap-’em-down technique pays dividends: his raw songwriting charm gleams through on Curse while the ramshackle feel of On The Corner and torchy lullaby The Last Song – buzzy guitars, bum notes, awkward tambourines, random piano improvisations – twists Paley’s gnarled, Waitsian croon into something sweetly elegant.
But what could have slipped into back-slapping folk country territory retains an edge thanks to the dichotomy of Francis’ honey-sharp sneers and Paley’s molasses-thick choke, or of Ugly Life’s sunny guitar chimes and misanthropic message: ‘Enjoy your ugly life’. And when such throwaway lyrical nonsense as ‘I’ll unleash my cats on your salty brain’ comes barrelling out, you get a real sense of the fun in the room, and hope that Paley & Francis might pleasantly while away more pre-Debaser afternoons together.