If you were to scrutinize the last 20 years of music looking for a unique face, one an artistic cut above the rest of the crowd
, Charles Michael Kittredge Thompson IV would not stand out. Stark white, squat-framed and stout in stature, Thompson is superficially unremarkable. Standing in a line-up, you might be inclined to scan over him and continue looking for someone with a glitter-glazed blazer. A fantastic pompadour, perhaps.
But you would be completely wrong.
For having such an unassuming exterior, Thompson – better known as Frank Black, Pixies frontman, and in this case, his earlier moniker, Black Francis – is more diverse than many musicians, peeling back layers of persona like crisped skin from fried chicken. Out of the depths of his abrasive, esoteric lyricism in early work with the Pixies and his chameleonesque solo material comes the impressive reemergence of Black Francis with Bluefinger.
“Captain Pasty,” an anthemic ode to a gas-drinking, small town-escaping superhero, opens the album with a succession of rapid-fire twangy guitar punches and a gravel-gulping wail from Francis, setting the pace for what's to come. “Threshold Apprehension,” a pummeling array of bass-drum kicks and Francis’ signature staccato bar chords, is an album highlight, waxing fearfully on coming to the brink of recklessness and thinking twice about taking the fall. Similar themes arrive later in “Angels Come to Comfort You,” a dirge that poses an aftermath existing if the protagonist did indeed leap into the great beyond.
But “Lolita” slows the album down a bit, telling a story of the beaten spirit of youth surrounded by antagonism, set to forlorn harmonies and harmonica solos. The song serves as apt transition into the latter half of the album, composed of realized love connections and relationship fallout.
After a scant 40 minutes or so, it's hard to remember why one would glance over this iconic talent in the aforementioned lineup. Black Francis’ ability to explore familiar themes in a spastic, unfettered manner continues to remind us that uniqueness is not simply skin deep.