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Learning to Love Frank Black

On my counter at home there lie two new albums by Frank Black, who is kind of my personal hero. I've been putting off listening to them because of a certain defect of taste: I am terrible at recognizing good music the first time through. I fall for easy hooks and fail to enjoy anything remotely complex unless someone sits me down and forces me to listen to it, over and over again, pushing me over a Philistine hump of activation energy.

In college, someone actually did sit me down and make me listen to the Pixies, over and over again, until the music sunk in. It's a procedure similar to an exorcism: I writhe and struggle, my head spins about my neck. At first I heard just a bunch of yelling and too-loud guitars. Then a couple of songs started to sound catchy, even though I still hated the rest. And then, finally...click.

I bought my first Frank Black album in 1999, at a time when I was often driving to New Hampshire. My little CD player had given up on most of my scratched-up collection. I didn't know a thing about Frank Black's post-Pixies career, but I was curious and desperate for something new to listen to.

Of course, the album sounded just awful. Every song had the same dynamic, there was none of that Pixies quirkiness, and the arrangements were boring. But New Hampshire is an awful far drive, and the radio reception is poor, so... click.

This recent interview with Frank Black (found via ToT) will tell you more about him than I ever can. He has a superb talent. He is the kind of musician who, if he ever touched Britney Spears, she would disappear in a cloud of antiparticles. They call him the father of grunge, but that's like calling Bob Dylan the father of folk rock. It misses the point.

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