Paley & Francis: Paley & Francis

This first-take album mixes edgy with fun.

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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.

Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont is a music journalist with almost three decades' experience writing for publications including Classic Rock, NME, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Uncut and Melody Maker. He has written major biographies on Muse, Jay-Z, The Killers, Kanye West and Bon Iver and his debut novel [6666666666] is available on Kindle.