This is a Frank Black solo album. Those who spurn his later day folk offerings, however, are encouraged to read on: he’s readopted his Pixies-era monicker and its associated screams, yelps and growls are fully intact.
To add further spice, the indulgence that sugar-coated last year’s Fast Man Raider Man LP has been shown the door: this is an album of bare rock based around the life of late Dutch musician/artist Herman Brood that grew from a studio session for a single track. Nice.
As such, Bluefinger – for the most part, at least – harks back to an age when Charles was half the size and twice as hairy. Opener Captain Hasty, for instance, is a punishing, foot-to-the-floor bruiser, the vocals suitably frantic and unsettling.
To prove that such teeth grinding is no one-off affair, the brilliant Threshold Apprehension strides out with the kind of infectious riff early Green Day made their own. It is, presumably, a reference to Brood’s discovering that he was fatally ill.
Subsequent affairs are more immediately more morbid than visceral: Test Pilot Blues is just that, all minor chords and sad sentiment (“I’ve seen blues you’ve never seen”), while Tight Black Rubber is dark, slightly confusing but perfectly measured.
Angels Come To Comfort You, however, is more to the point, referencing Brood – and his suicide by jumping off the Amsterdam Hilton – with frankness, humour and admiration. The track’s beautiful outro is then followed by Your Mouth Into Mine, in which Black invokes Brood’s spirit with jangly gusto.
The effort is wrapped up with Discotheque 36 (somewhat inoffensive), Brood’s very own You Can’t Break A Heart And Have It (totally brutal), She Took All The Money (absolutely splendid) and the title track itself (particularly bluesy).
Bluefinger is, then, a simple, accessible and enjoyable album of rock and blues by a formidable artist rediscovering his scream while maintaining his cultured songwriting abilities. As a resurrection for the Black Francis alter ego and the dearly departed Brood, the boy’s done good.