Frank Black and the Catholics Show Me Your Tears

This latest full-length from the almost-ridiculously prolific Frank Black is probably the closest thing to a concept album the former Pixies boss is likely to issue. The simple, would-be premise is indicated in the disc’s title: these are songs of angst, woe, loss and melancholy. Mostly melancholy. As usual, the tunes have a strong live element to them, recorded as they were in accordance to Black and his Catholics’ now familiar live-to-two-track studio regimen. Though Black rarely disappoints, this is a particularly solid set capturing as it does the many and varied elements this unit has come to command, from barely bridled fury, to dusty, soulful, rootsy rock’n’roll, to sinister, cabaret blues. As usual, the band’s performances shine, especially those of dual guitar wizards Rich Gilbert and David Philips. Vocally and lyrically, Black continues on his contrary, fine wine-like course against the grain of typical patterns of aging. The disc’s best track, "Manitoba,” is also its most incongruous, and one that continues in the seeming trend of using Canadian geographical references as titles. A studio epic even by Black’s standards, the tune features no fewer than 12 players including genius arranger Van Dyke Parks on keys, Pixies six-stringer Joey Santiago and producer and Wall of Voodoo veteran Stan Ridgeway. The song relates the story of someone lost in, and ultimately rendered infirm by, the wintery wilds of Manitoba. Cool. (Sonic Unyon)