Review Summary: Freedom Rock Indeed
The pixies are often regarded as one of the best and most influential American bands of all time, why is this? Well it’s mainly due to main man Black Francis’s incredible song writing skills. He mixed the Beatles with raging punk to get a fascinating blend of melodic bliss. For example, “Something against you” (From the Pixies first album, Surfer Rosa) contains shrieking guitars and screaming vocals yet there was something so beautiful and fresh behind all the clutter and mess that you just couldn’t ignore.
Despite all this, the Pixies broke up in 1993 and Black Francis changed his name to Frank Black. He began a solo career, hoping to separate himself from his prestigious past. His first self tilted album was well received but many pixies fans shied away from Franks new tunes; however this was a big mistake as he was soon to release his masterpiece, “Teenager of the year”.
Teenager of the year is Frank Black's statement to the world that he can write whatever he wants songs like “Freedom rock” change mood and rhythm a zillion times, whereas “Big Red” is a blatant pop song with an infectious chorus. His lyrics often reference the universe and the solar system “Space is gonna do me good”, “Pie in the sky”, these lyrics create a beautiful contrast to the often simple instrumentation.
If I was asked to describe “Teenager of the year” in one word then it would be freedom. His songs on this album show untamed creative freedom where you can just tell he’s having as much fun as he can writing these tunes. The diversity and playfulness on the album is brilliant, it has fast rock songs “Thalassocracy”, country-ish mid tempo ballads like “Abstract Plain” and straight up weird songs like “Fiddle Riddle”. The sheer amount of songs and variety can be daunting at first but the more you listen to the album the more you can see Franks vision for an album that covers different aspects of music, rather than just rock or punk.
Of course there are going to be comparisons to the Pixies but a lot of the songs on this album would have been out of place on the Pixies albums, for example the rockabilly ballad “Sir Rockaby” is a millions miles away from the Pixies more straightforward rock sound. What I will say is that this album is different from the Pixies work, and it’s up to personal opinion to say which is better, but hey that’s what sites like this are for (Breaking the fourth wall!).
This is the part of the review where I was going to talk about the more negative points of the album but I can’t really think of any bad songs, just songs that aren’t as good as the rest. However even though the songs themselves are good, the album at times just fails to rock hard enough and it may leave you wanting more of the punk aggression that was in Franks earlier work with the pixies.
Frank took a softer yet more diverse and dynamic approach for this album that with time you will learn to appreciate but whether you enjoy this sort of music or not I think you have to respect Frank Blacks attempt at making music he likes rather than what the thousands of pixies fans wanted him to make, sure he could have re-written “Debaser” a hundred times but Frank is having too much fun creating the music that he wants to create and dressing up all girly for album covers.