Black Francis - Svn Fngrs Album Review
A seven-track mini-album from Black Francis, eh? One of those happy occasions where your humble reviewer looks forward to banging the CD in the machine, turning it up to rattle-the-windows volume and sampling the wares on show.
Any by God, the bass on ‘The Seus’ really does rattle the windows. You don't so much hear it as feel it. Francis's guitar is pure swamp-rock Beefheart in the verses, the lyrics are pure stream-of-unconsciousness (and there's a lot of them!), and there's a cheeky harmonica stabbing away in there as well. It's all very angular and a bit ... well ... difficult, which we've come to expect of Francis by now. He's not often an easy listen, but usually a rewarding one. ‘Garbage Heap’ begins with a recognisably Francis guitar, all bent, sustained notes, accompanied by one of those characteristic basslines that isn't as simple as it first appears. The vocal is almost a tender falsetto, and in the chorus almost recalls David Bowie in pseudo-croon mode. There's a simple but effective guitar solo and backing vocals that veer off in the manner of M83. It's very pretty, and just a little diseased.
‘Half Man’ sees Francis adopting an almost child-like falsetto, which is somehow disturbing against the fairly standard instrumentation and traditional chord progressions. ‘I am half man, I'm almost like you’, he states. Odd. ‘I Sent Away’ begins with the frankly bizarre lyric ‘I was alone, I killed my clone, I learned to play the xylophone’, set against an almost Fall-esque chug-along. There's a harmonica solo that's pure garage-band, and Francis works himself into a near frenzy vocal-wise. Undeniably groovy stuff.
‘Seven Fingers’ is a jaunty little number that sees the appearance of an acoustic guitar and wailing backing vocals. ‘I turn into a monster when I fight’, Black promises, with an added warning to steer clear if it all kicks off. Consider it done, sir. ‘The Tale Of Lonesome Fetter’ is pretty forgettable, with little to recommend it. Closer ‘When They Come To Murder Me’ could, in years to come, be cited as a perfect example of Francis's stock vocal delivery. The track swaggers along with Francis teetering adroitly on the edge of madness, the guitar descends occasionally in saucy dischord, but there's a genuine chorus to yell along to as well. Super.
While this mini-album may not necessarily hit the heights of bug-eyed, blazing, howling lunacy of which Black Francis is eminently capable, there are many indications here that he shows few signs of mellowing, which is an eminently good thing. His idiosyncratic lyric writing is very much on display, as is his ear for an angular, on-the-edge tune. There really is no-one quite like him, and this should be celebrated.
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