Some new music I’ve been enjoying from three artists/bands whose work I’ve been following since the mid or late ’80s:
The Mekons, “Natural”: Their last collection of new material, “OOOH,” was an exploration of religion and ritual; this new batch takes a turn to the pastoral. Rough-hewn even in this laid-back mode; mysteriously allusive as always; and worth heavy rotation as ever.
They Might Be Giants, “The Else”: I never fully warmed to their previous outing, “The Spine,” but “The Else” strikes me as a return to form. I’m enjoying it and — even though this is ostensibly a “grownup” album and not one of the band’s “children’s music” works — so are my seven-year-olds. Standout tracks: the patter-song “Bee of the Bird of the Moth” (is it an ode about genetic engineering? I don’t know, but I’ll remember the “Sleep of Reason Corporation”!) and “Contre Coup” (a song about phrenology, concussions and love), which introduced me to the obscure word “limerent.”
Black Francis, “Bluefinger”: Frank Black reverts to his old Pixies moniker for this new album, inspired (as the folks in the FrankBlack.net forum figured out and the official site confirms) by the life saga of Dutch glam rocker Herman Brood. Hard for me to see how all 11 tracks fit that template. But it’s easy for me to love the entire album, which marks a return to energetic form after Black’s previous duo of interesting but somewhat enervated discs recorded in Nashville. Standout songs: Beastie-Boys-style rave up “Threshold Apprehension,” in which Black shrieks and yowls like he hasn’t since Pixie days; “Lolita,” which sounds like one of the great numbers from the days of Frank Black and the Catholics (reminiscent of the Jonathan Richman tribute “The Man Who Was Too Loud”); the singalong “She Took All of the Money”; and “Angels Come to Comfort You,” which rises to the catchiest, sunniest chorus of death you can imagine.
I missed TMBG on their current tour — they swung through the Bay Area while I was out of town last week — but it seems that both the Mekons and Frank Black/Black Francis are performing over the next week at the Cafe du Nord. I expect to be there.
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